October 3, 2016- Three more victims of sexual assault by a massage therapist at the West Chester, PA Massage Envy Franchise have sought counsel from our team. A collaboration between our firm and Laffey, Bucci, and Kent, LLP, now represents a total of 9 victims who were sexually assaulted during massages at West Chester’s Massage Envy.
Last year, six individual lawsuits were filed in Philadelphia County on the heels of the arrest of James Deiter, a licensed massage therapist working at a Massage Envy franchise in West Chester, PA. Several of the victims were assaulted by Deiter after a complaint of inappropriate sexual conduct by Deiter had already been lodged by a victim. The lawsuits name the local Massage Envy Franchisee, also known as Spa Dogs, and the national franchisor, Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ.
Update from September 17, 2015: PA Crime Victim Legal Advocates and Laffey, Bucci and Kent, LLP announce that they have filed complaints on behalf of 6 separate victims of sexual assault against local Massage Envy West Chester franchise as well as national franchisor, Massage Envy, Inc., headquartered in Scottsdale AZ. The lawsuit alleges that each of the victims were sexually assaulted during a massage by an employee who had been previously suspended by Massage Envy for the same conduct. The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
Below is the original blog post about the case, published August 5, 2015:
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you’ll be well aware that a local massage therapist was recently arrested after several female clients accused him of sexual assault. James Deiter worked at the Massage Envy Spa in West Goshen and allegedly abused these women over the course of a few months during appointments. Along with Brian D. Kent of the Philadelphia firm Laffey Bucci Kent, our very own Tom Bellwoar is representing some of the victims in this case. After further investigation of the case, the two discovered a pattern within Massage Envy franchises and specifically within this location.
According to court documents, there have been more than 50 reports of assaults by the chain’s employees in more than 15 states.Tom’s findings in this case are best summed up in the quote he provided the Daily Local News:
“Clearly we are disturbed by these allegations,” said Bellwoar. “But when you look at what is going on with Massage Envy spas nationally, you really shouldn’t be shocked. It fits a pattern.”
“The pattern that you see across the country is that there is a report made (by a female customer against a therapist, and that the therapist is either transferred or rehired by another franchise, but no one reports it to law enforcement. In this case, from our understanding, there was little done” after initial complaints about Deiter.
Bellwoar and Kent feel that the franchise owners as well as the chain and corporate owners should be held responsible for the pain and suffering experienced by Dieter’s victims. Victims of sexual assault experience high levels of stress and psychological pain in addition to physical pain. This is especially true in cases such as this one, where the assault could have been prevented. According to the lawsuit, the victim who is suing the Massage Envy Spa was not the first to report a sexual assault by Deiter to a Massage Envy employee. However, it was the first time the assault was reported to the police.
When Jane Doe, as she is named in the suit, contacted Massage Envy about an appointment, the receptionist recommended Deiter. When she accepted the recommendation, she was unaware that just two months prior another female client had accused Deiter of assault. The suit states that employees were instructed not to contact police, but instead handle the issue “in-house.” Deiter was suspended for one week then allowed to come back to work without any restrictions to female clients. Upon his return, Deiter assaulted several other women and is now involved in three separate sexual assault cases.
Since the case has gone public, many are suggesting that this is a regular practice throughout the national chain. This handling of an employee’s misconduct creates a work environment where massage therapists can take advantage of their clients without much threat of police interaction. For more on this story, be sure to read the entire article at Daily Local News.