AUSTIN (KXAN) — A couple is suing a massage business in Cedar Park, along with one of its former employees for more than $1 million.
The suit, filed Monday, states Genevieve and Gary Phillips want to recover damages for “personal injuries sustained as a result of sexual assault and battery against Genevieve Phillips.”
The incident is said to have happened during a couples massage at La Vida Massage of Cedar Park in March 2014, nearly two years ago.
Adrian Stuart Johnson, a former licensed massage therapist at La Vida, allegedly exposed himself and placed his genitals in Genevieve’s hand.
The owner of La Vida Massage of Cedar Park, Abhay Salunke told KXAN us he’s taken aback by the lawsuit, especially considering the alleged sexual assault happened nearly two years ago. But the couple’s attorney, Todd Kelly, says people often wait to come forward in these types of cases.
“This is very personal, it was very emotional. She was there with her husband for a couple’s massage and part of what they were doing was working on their marriage,” Kelly explained. He said in the hopes of overcoming a hurdle, his clients faced a new one.
“I think that the reason they came forward is they realized that if places like La Vida Massage continue not to do background checks on people like this guy, then they’re exposing everyone. Everyone who walks in there is exposed to the same risk – or worse,” Kelly said.
It’s important to note Johnson was licensed at the time, which requires a background check.
“What they didn’t do is check his professional references,” Kelly said.
The lawsuit states, “When confronted with Johnson’s behavior, the front desk manager of La Vida Massage of Cedar Park admitted that they had failed to check Johnson’s professional references, and had relied solely on his personal references.”
Salunke told KXAN he only hires licensed professionals, and Johnson’s reference came from another employee who worked with him in the past.
“I take the protection of my clients very seriously,” Salunke said. “We’re not here to do this kind of damage to anybody.”
Salunke said at the time of the incident, he got a call from the front desk that the client was upset with the massage. He said when he arrived at La Vida, Johnson had already left for the day. He never came back. Gary told the owner his wife was touched inappropriately and they discussed the concerns. But Salunke told KXAN Gary didn’t provide details to the extent mentioned in the lawsuit.
“He never mentioned anything like this,” Salunke said. “I’m a little bit shocked myself.”
Johnson was charged with indecent exposure in the 2014 incident. He did not appear for court, and the judge issued a warrant. But Kelly told KXAN the ultimate responsibility rests on La Vida’s shoulders, to assure, “when they put us in a room, in a very vulnerable and compromising position, people are – safe. We pay for that.”
To find out if your massage therapist is licensed, visit the state’s website.