The Tiger Woods Legal Sand Trap

Tiger Woods and ex girlfriend Erica Herman at the 2022 US Open in New York City.
Tiger Woods and ex girlfriend Erica Herman at the 2022 US Open in New York City. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
March 20, 2023

Tiger Woods’ breakup with Erica Herman may soon become legal legend. It began with Herman packing her bags for what she thought was a romantic getaway. Instead, at the airport, Tiger’s handlers dropped the bombshell that she wasn’t welcome back at his Hobe Sound mansion. Now Herman is demanding more than $30 million in damages to compensate her for five lost years she expected to enjoy in that oceanside residence, which she claims she’s entitled to under an oral tenancy agreement. Woods, for his part, is pushing for arbitration, but Herman and her lawyers at Fisher Potter are throwing a curveball by citing the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act.

This new and largely untested law, which was signed by President Biden a year ago after a surprisingly bipartisan vote in Congress, allows anyone claiming sexual misconduct to have their entire case heard in open court—with a judge, not an arbitrator, calling the shots. The only problem is that the law doesn’t actually define sexual harassment, which means it’s pretty blurry what sort of misbehavior qualifies as an arbitration killer, an important topic now that arbitration agreements are ubiquitous. Aside from a recent case about Everyrealm, a metaverse company, there really hasn’t been much interpretation of the new statute’s scope. 

Herman’s invocation of the law is intriguing, but the 39-year-old Florida woman hasn’t provided the details of Woods’ alleged behavior yet. It’s possible, of course, that her initial tease could be a media tactic to nudge the world-famous golfer to settle, now that TMZ is probably hitting refresh on the Martin County court website. But if not, attorneys everywhere will be closely watching the outcome. Indeed, should Herman find any success, there will be plenty of imitators, not to mention litigious exes waiting to take a swing at their former celebrity flames.