Contributing Writer: Morgan Fraser Mouchette
Tiger Woods is once again in some personal trouble away from the links. Recent court filings show Erica Herman, Mr Woods’ ex-girlfriend, is seeking legal avenues to void their non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in light of an ongoing lease dispute between her and the golf legend’s team .
When the couple became official in 2017, Ms. Herman was asked to sign an NDA, a common practice among high-net-worth or high-profile individuals such as Mr. Woods. Not surprising, given the extreme media scrutiny Mr Woods faced in 2009 after his infidelity with then-wife Elin Nordegren was leaked to the press. In the days following the leak, Mr Woods was involved in a car crash and a frenzy of tabloid speculation as other women claimed they too had been involved with the golf superstar.
In October 2022, when Mr. Woods and Ms. Herman decided to call it quits after nearly six years together, Ms. Herman filed a $30 million lawsuit against a trust, Jupiter Island Irrevocable Homestead (“the trust”), owned by Mr. .Woods, claiming she was wrongfully evicted from the home she lived in during their relationship. According to Ms. Herman, “agents of the defendant” asked her to “pack a suitcase for a short vacation” before she was told, upon her arrival at the airport, that she had been locked out of the house. In response, the trust filed a motion with the court to dismiss with prejudice, alleging that Ms. Herman’s claims were invalid because she was not a “tenant” of the residence under the Landlord Tenant Act. They further argued that the NDA between the two required “confidential arbitration of all disputes,” which Ms. Herman was violating.
Ms. Herman is now seeking to void the NDA under the provisions of the federal Speak Out Act, Pub. L. 117–224, which “prohibits judicial enforcement of a nondisclosure or nondisparagement clause agreed to before a dispute involving sexual assault or sexual harassment in violation of federal, tribal, or state law arises.”
Although the terms of Tiger Woods’ NDA are not publicly available, NDAs in these types of situations typically include restrictions on publishing in print, broadcast, internet, and social media any disparaging information about marital, financial, or family matters. affairs of any party, or the publication of personal information. Parties are also generally entitled to an injunction, either temporary or permanent, in the event of a breach of confidentiality. In some cases, the NDA may contain provisions outlining damages for breaches.
According to arguments by Mr. Woods’ lawyers, his NDA also includes a clause barring public court filings, which is common in celebrity deals. However, under the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, Pub. L. 117-90, Ms. Herman could waive arbitration agreements for a lawsuit if found to be a victim of sexual assault or harassment.
At this time, to avoid violating the NDA, Ms. Herman has not spoken out publicly against Mr. Woods regarding any allegations of sexual assault or harassment or any other personal information. However, if the court finds her claims to be in compliance with the acts, she may be granted access to speak publicly and proceed with the tenancy trial. These public filings may be a sign that Ms. Herman’s team is trying to increase pressure on Mr. Woods to pay Ms. Herman and potentially give her access to $40,000 in assets she claims were seized from her home. Otherwise she would be considered his separate property or he would put pressure on him to resolve her lease.
Going forward, the court will have a lot to decide about the validity of both sides’ arguments. Since the two were not married, there are limited legal protections for cohabitants. The equitable distribution and support rights afforded to a married couple generally do not exist for spouses in most jurisdictions, and courts tend to stay out of cases between two parties ending a non-marital relationship. However, from an outside perspective, it seems unlikely that Mr. Woods’ team, at the outset of his relationship with Ms. Herman, would not have instilled safeguards to ensure that the rights of a live-in girlfriend were limited, given her public status and his history.
As to the NDA, Florida courts will have to decide whether those protections are valid. Society is becoming less accepting of restricting people’s ability to talk about personal experiences, especially in cases of sexual harassment. However, the purpose of an NDA is to allow one to live privately and have relationships without fear of monetization by an ex. That said, much will come to light once Ms. Herman’s allegations are heard.
Legal Entertainment has reached out to the agency for comment and will update this story as needed.
Morgan Fraser Mouchette, a partner in Blank Rome’s New York office, handles complex matrimonial matters for high-net-worth, high-profile clients. She provides individuals and families with personalized and strategic support to navigate and move forward from life’s most difficult outcomes, including divorce.