A judge says he’s inclined to find that a woman can pursue most of her allegations against Bikram Choudhury, who she claims raped her in 2010 during a $13,000 nine-week teacher training program at the yoga guru’s studio in San Diego.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu issued a tentative ruling Tuesday allowing the plaintiff to move forward with all of her allegations against Choudhury’s Yoga College of India in an amended lawsuit, with the exception of her gender violence cause of action. Attorneys for the college maintained that as an entity, a school cannot commit gender violence, but the plaintiff’s lawyers claimed the school was the “alter ego” of Choudhury and therefore equally responsible.
In a 3 1/2-page tentative ruling, Treu agreed with lawyers for the college and also said he is leaning toward granting the college’s motion to strike the “alter ego” theory of liability.
“Yoga College cannot be said to have personally committed any act of gender violence,” Treu wrote.
If finalized, Treu’s ruling would allow the plaintiff to pursue her theory of vicarious liability against the school. Vicarious liability refers to a situation where an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.
“Here, plaintiff alleges that she was in a professional relationship … with plaintiff being assigned the ‘gift’ of special individualized attention from Choudhury which gradually turned into unwanted personal interactions of a sexual nature,” Treu wrote.
Treu is scheduled to hear arguments from attorneys on Thursday before issuing a final ruling.
The plaintiff is identified in the complaint as Jane Doe No. 2. The Colorado woman filed her lawsuit in May 2013 and also names Choudhury as an individual defendant.
She says she reported the alleged assault shortly after it occurred in a room at Choudhury’s studio on Nov. 18, 2010, but San Diego authorities told her they could not move forward with a case without any witnesses, said her lawyer, Mary Hagebols.
The suit alleges Choudhury induced young women like the plaintiff to enroll in teacher training classes to become yoga instructors only so he could “sexually assault and/or rape them.”
During weeks of grueling training, Choudhury called the plaintiff as “a piece of gold in a roomful of brass,” the suit alleges.
Choudhury’s sexual advances were rebuffed by the plaintiff, but she was raped after she became too exhausted from the schedule to resist him, the suit alleges.
Choudhury’s students must abstain from sex, are taught that his techniques can cure cancer and other diseases and told that Choudhury is akin to a God, the complaint alleges.
The plaintiff alleges the schedule to which she was subjected was designed to “break down her body, will and spirit” and brainwash her, and that Choudhury’s students are directed to show “unquestioning obedience.”
Choudhury’s teaches a form of Hatha Yoga in which the temperature during training is set higher than 100 degrees.
—City News Service