John Travolta, one of the better known actors in the world, has been hit with two lawsuits alleging that he engaged in sexual misconduct.
The allegations come from two masseurs who, so far, have refused to reveal their names. In one case, the masseuse claims that Travolta solicited sexual conduct with him on January 16, 2012 at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Travolta allegedly began rubbing the masseuse’s leg, touched his scrotum and the shaft of his penis. Travolta adamantly denies the accusations, and has offered proof that he was in New York at the time the alleged incident occurred. Now, the accuser says he got the date wrong, and that the real date was some time earlier.
Here is a copy of the complaint in case. The theories of liability are assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The second suit, also by an unnamed masseuse, claims inappropriate conduct in Atlanta on January 28, 2012. A press release by Travolta’s attorney says that "Before the attorney for the two anonymous plaintiffs filed the claim on behalf of the second person who refuses to disclose his identity although required to do so, it is obvious that he checked media reports that my client was in Atlanta working on a movie." The second suit was added to the claim made by the first man in the amended complaint. It includes the same causes of action, but adds a civil rights violation under California law. Exactly how the second plaintiff, who alleges that the wrongful acts took place in Atlanta, will be able to seek relief under California civil rights law is unclear.
The lawyer for the plaintiffs in both cases is Okorie Okorocha, a Whittier College School of Law grad. He claims that more "victims" have come forward and that he is in the process of vetting their claims. If Okorocha was correctly quoted, he does not suffer from lack of confidence: "I’m the real deal,” Okorocha told CNN. “He [Travolta’s lawyer Martin Singer] stepped into the ring with a gorilla. I am relentless."
Now, a third person has come forward with similar complaints. The article announcing this third claim includes a statement by Okorocha which says that more than 100 men have come forward with similar claims.
The alleged conduct, if it occurred, would rise to the level of civil battery (to the extent intentional touching occurred) and perhaps civil assault. Whether the conduct would rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress is a closer call – I certainly do not profess to know California or Georgia law on that subject.
What really troubles me about these cases is that I can’t figure out what the damages are. Assume that everything stated in the amended complaint is true. What is the injury? The most significant damage is the impact of the litigation on the private lives of the two plaintiffs, but they brought that on themselves by filing suit.
Don’t get me wrong. If Travolta did exactly what he is alleged to have done, most of us would agree that the conduct is bizarre and even creepy. But, really, how would that cause any harm to anyone that would justify a lawsuit? There was no violence and no threat of violence. True, the conduct alleged is admittedly, shall we say, an aggressive request and outreach for sexual favors. However, there are lots of aggressive requests for sexual favors, most heard between Midnight and 3:00 a.m. in bars occupied by those under 30. I think most people who were at the receiving end of such action would laugh it off and have a great story to tell.
Then again, usually the person seeking the sexual favors is not one of the most famous actors in the world. It is John Travolta’s fame that is driving these claims.