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Florida Lawsuit Accuses Massage Envy of Failing to Protect Patrons From Sexual Assault

Spa chain Massage Envy has been accused of failing to protect its customers at several Florida locations. Credit: Zoriana Zaitseva/Shutterstock.com

A new lawsuit has accused Massage Envy of negligence in vetting its employees and ensuring the safety of its customers.

The complaint filed Monday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court names the nationwide massage therapy chain as a defendant.

The plaintiff, who's listed as a Jane Doe, claims she was sexually assaulted Nov. 11, 2016, while visiting a Massage Envy location in Coral Gables. According to the suit, the attacker was a male therapist who sexually touched her during the spa treatment.

Plaintiff counsel Alex Arteaga-Gomez, of Coral Gables law firm Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, said his client reported the attack four days after it occurred. However, Massage Envy allegedly did little to rectify the situation.

"There’s an incident report they prepared — it is a whitewash," Arteaga-Gomez said. "It does not accurately reflect her account. She was assured they would take proper action against that individual. Whatever they did do, they did not terminate him." The suit alleges the masseur "committed another sexual assault on another female client at the same franchise location" just months later.

Read the complaint: 

Massage Envy said in a statement Tuesday that it does not comment on specific litigation, but is committed "to promoting a safe environment for members, guests and service providers at each of our 1,200 franchise locations nationwide."

"We urge anyone that experiences anything other than a safe, quality massage to report it immediately to the franchise location so that it can be investigated," the statement read. "We support the decision of any victim to report misconduct and it is the policy of Massage Envy to require its franchisees to supply any guest who claims to be a victim of sexual misconduct with the contact information of local law enforcement and the state board."

The statement added Massage Envy requires its franchises to "report to law enforcement when required by law," as well as provide information about access to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network's sexual assault hotline.

"Based on the guidance from leading experts, including RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the US, it is our policy to respect the victim’s privacy and the victim’s right to decide whether they would like to report to law enforcement, the state board, or anyone else," the statement continued.

Meanwhile, a separate Jane Doe named the same therapist in a December 2017 lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The suit is the latest in a series of lawsuits against Massage Envy and follows similar actions by other Jane Does. In a lawsuit filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court in August, for instance, 11 women accused Massage Envy of systematically downplaying sexual assault at its Florida locations.

Arteaga-Gomez said both suits accuse the franchise of failing to properly vet job applicants. In the case of his client, the complaint alleges the named therapist has a "history of domestic violence" and was arrested on felony charges of strong-arm robbery and grand theft resulting from a fight with his then-girlfriend before being hired with Massage Envy.

"That, to me, is a serious red flag," Arteaga-Gomez said.

The newest lawsuit charges Massage Envy with one count of negligent hiring as well as negligence in its policies and training. It maintains Massage Envy "did not have reasonable policies and procedures in place to protect its guests from a sexual misconduct by a person performing massage therapy services" on its premises, and "failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that clients were sufficiently warned of and protected from foreseeable harm."

"That is more directed at Massage Envy's implementation of policies and protocols that insufficiently act as a deterrent to conduct like this," Arteaga-Gomez said. "There is a custom and practice of underplaying sexual assault and of protecting the company from law enforcement scrutiny. That creates the right environment for a predator to act."

When contacted by phone the therapist said he was not aware of new allegations against him and needed to speak with his attorney before abruptly hanging up. Additional calls to his number were not answered.

Meanwhile, plaintiff's counsel is pressing the claim.

"When a woman knows she’s been assaulted, she has been," Arteaga-Gomez said. "Massage Envy has inadequate screening measures for looking into therapists' backgrounds. … Assailants know there's not going to be a serious consequence and the company’s going to protect you."

Related stories:

11 Women Sue Massage Envy Chain Over Alleged Sexual Assault in Florida

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