A woman who accused a Coral Gables Massage Envy masseur of sexual assault has filed a civil lawsuit in Miami-Dade circuit court against that franchise’s owner.
The suit charges that First World Financial Corp.’s negligence in hiring and business practices cleared the way for the alleged March 12 sexual assault by licensed massage therapist David Egusquiza at the Massage Envy located at 256 Miracle Mile. The suit says it seeks compensation for the woman’s “injury and expense, including but not limited to, psychological and emotional injuries, mental anguish, and the loss of the enjoyment of life.”
The woman told Coral Gables police that Egusquiza put at least one finger in her vagina during the massage and, when she objected, kissed her on the forehead, apologized and asked her to keep what happened a secret. Egusquiza was charged with sexual battery and felony battery before pleading guilty to felony battery. He received five years probation.
As reported by the Miami Herald in June, Egusquiza’s massage therapist license has been under an emergency restriction order from the Florida Department of Health, which still allows him to give massages, but a supervisor must be present. His license expired in August.
Representing the woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” in the suit is Fort Lauderdale attorney Adam Horowitz, a lawyer who told the Herald in an email that he’s part of “over two dozen” similar suits against Massage Envy franchises. A BuzzFeed story from Nov. 26 says more than 180 women nationwide have reported sexual assaults at various Massage Envy locations.
Messages left for First World Financial Corp.’s president Ismar Herrera were not returned. Massage Envy LLC, however, e-mailed a statement Thursday evening:
"We have not been made aware of this legal case. What we can say is that throughout Massage Envy’s 15-year history, safety in the treatment room has been – and always will be – paramount. Our Commitment to Safety defines a clear path forward and will create swift and meaningful change in the things we do to protect both clients and the 20,000 therapists across the network."
That Commitment to Safety, posted Tuesday, followed a website letter from Massage Envy Franchising CEO Joseph C. Magnacca that claimed Massage Envy just rechecked all massage therapist files for background, professional reference and license checks and a third party company has started rescreening all LMTs employed at Massage Envys.
There are 1,170 franchise locations in the country. Massage Envy says they’ll have an automated, third-party real time employee requirement compliance tracking system installed in early 2018. In addition to the above checks, the company says therapists must go through training in the company’s code of conduct and zero tolerance policy.
The suit filed by Jane Doe claims that First World knew of the numerous nationwide sexual assault reports but didn’t tell women coming in for massages. Nor did First World “have reasonable policies and procedures in place to protect its female guests from a sexual misconduct by a person performing services at Massage Envy. In particular, Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that female clients who received massages from male therapists were sufficiently warned of and protected from foreseeable harm. Further, Defendant did not have adequate measures in place to deter foreseeable harm such as panic buttons in the massage therapy rooms.”