In Florida news, Erica Herman, Tiger Wood’s ex-girlfriend, has filed the second lawsuit in Martin County arising out of their five-year relationship. In a declaratory judgment complaint – an action in which a party asks the court to clarify legal rights or issues – she is asking the court to declare a 2017 nondisclosure agreement (NDA) between her and Woods unenforceable.
Is the NDA valid and enforceable?
Herman argues that the NDA is invalid based on unconscionability (shocking unfairness) and insufficient consideration (what a party to a contract gives up in exchange for the contractual benefit). She also asserts that the NDA as well as its mandatory arbitration clause are unenforceable because of recent federal laws invalidating NDAs and mandated arbitration in cases of sexual harassment or assault. The text of her complaint, however, does not accuse Woods of this behavior.
Should the court find the NDA to be enforceable, the March 6, 2023, complaint against Eldrick (Tiger) Woods asks the court to clarify each of their rights and duties under the NDA. Herman asks the court for direction about what she can disclose about her life, including events she would need to discuss in a potential lawsuit or to protect her reputation.
Was Herman wrongfully removed from Woods’ home?
The declaratory judgment complaint follows her first suit in Oct. 2022 against a trust that owns and controls Wood’s residence. She asserts that the trust enticed her to leave the property under false pretenses, violating an oral tenancy agreement that she could continue to live there for five more years. She seeks $30 million in damages.
The trust responded that the court should stay the case because the NDA’s mandatory arbitration clause requires the matter to go to arbitration instead. The trust asserts that the dispute grew out of their relationship despite the trust being the defendant in her lawsuit. Presumably, her request for a declaratory judgment was a response to this.
Legal relationship between unmarried cohabitants
“In Florida, no legal rights or duties flow from mere cohabitation,” according to one Florida case (Castetter v. Henderson). In other words, to have rights or duties related to such a relationship, there must be bases for them outside of the relationship itself.
Divorce laws create an orderly process with standards and rules for settling primary issues of ending a marriage like monetary support and property division. Unmarried cohabitants, however, have few legal remedies when their relationship ends to resolve disputed issues. Instead, they can control the outcome of their relationship at its end by entering binding contracts such as a cohabitation agreement. The same contract laws that control (nonmarital) personal, service or business agreements would control contracts between cohabitants.
By contrast, premarital and postmarital agreements between spouses have special treatment and requirements under the law to promote fairness and disclosure of wealth between the parties.
Family law advocates in Florida will follow the Herman-Woods disputes with interest to understand whether their resolution impacts Florida law going forward.