Filing a Lawsuit for Sexual Assault by a Massage Therapist

| Feb 21, 2018 | Massage Therapists

Horowitz Law is experienced in handling cases involving sexual assault by massage therapists during a massage appointment.   Across the country there have been an increasing number of cases involving inappropriate sexual contact by massage therapists. The perpetrators of these assaults are often repeat offenders who prey on the vulnerability of their clients. Even worse, there are spa owners who continue to employ massage therapists even after their employees have been accused of sexual assault.  The Massage Envy franchises in particular have been exposed in numerous legal actions on account of sexual abuse.

The filing of a lawsuit following an incident of sexual contact by a massage therapist can be a milestone step in the healing process for the injured person. Of course, it provides an opportunity to provide compensation to the injured party for having undergone the trauma.  But perhaps most importantly, the lawsuit provides a forum to publicly expose the predator for his wrongdoing and to hold accountable anyone whose negligence allowed this heinous act to occur.  By exposing the predator and holding other parties accountable through a lawsuit along with reporting the claim to law enforcement and the Department of Health, the assault victim can alert the public to this predator and prevent others from having to endure the same trauma. At the same time, if there is a spa or employer who has ignored complaints of sexual assault, there is no better way to cause them to reform their business practices than through litigation due to the threat of significant liability.

Attorney Adam Horowitz has handled numerous cases in which massage therapists lost their professional license and/or been criminally charged on account of sexual assault of a client.  With a complaint of sexual assault in their employment history, this also makes it difficult for massage therapists to work in a professional setting with another employer where he could expose other clients to harm.

There are several legal theories available to survivors of sexual assault by a massage therapist. First, if a massage therapist’s employer knows or has had any reason to know of the therapist’s history of prior sexual misconduct or boundary issues with client, the employer can be sued for Negligence. A Negligent Hiring claim may be brought if the massage therapist’s employer knew or should have known that the massage therapist was unfit for his duties at the time he was hired. A Negligent Retention or Negligent Supervision claim is available if the massage therapist’s employer knew or should have known that the massage therapist was unfit for his duties after he was employed, yet continued to employ the therapist and place clients at risk for harm. Alternatively, if the employer has generalized knowledge that incidents of sexual assault are occurring at his business, most states recognizes a duty to warn clients of known risks which they clients would not otherwise have reason to know about.

Even if the massage therapist has no prior history of misconduct, an employer may nevertheless be sued under a theory of Vicarious Liability in most states. As a general rule, Vicarious Liability occurs when an employee in the course of his job duties injures someone by committing an act which he was aided in committing by virtue of his employment status.  For instance, in the context of a massage, the massage therapists are authorized to make skin-to-skin contact with their clients who are often undressed in a darkened room with a complete stranger while lying in a prone position and seeking a relaxing experience.  Unfortunately, this situation presents an opportune time for a predator to commit sexual assault as he is literally aided due to the circumstances of his job duties. When a massage therapist commits sexual assault upon a client while on duty during normal working hours, his employer can be vicariously liable. The fact that all sexual contact by a massage therapist is unauthorized is irrelevant for purposes of establishing Vicarious Liability. The basis for liability is that the massage therapist is converting his authorized touching to an unauthorized touching. There are numerous examples of this theory of liability. An employer of a first aid attendant has been held vicariously liable for sexual abuse where the attendant was bandaging a child’s leg and moved his hand up to caress a child’s genitals. Similarly, a medical practice was held vicariously liable for sexual assault of patient who was undergoing an exam when the doctor converted his authorized touching during the exam into a sexual assault.

If you have a been a victim of sexual assault in a spa or during a massage, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected]