Woman sues Massage Envy after Geneva therapist with felony history sexually assaulted her

Complaint claims entire incident could have been prevented by a background check

Michelle Gallardo Image
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Woman sues Massage Envy after being assaulted by convicted felon
A lawsuit has been filed against a Massage Envy in Geneva after a woman was sexually assaulted by James Garrett, who had a felony record when hired.

GENEVA, Ill. (WLS) -- A civil lawsuit has been filed against a suburban Massage Envy after a woman was sexually assaulted. The complaint alleges the entire incident could have been prevented if a proper background check had been conducted.

Five years after a scandal that revealed the Massage Envy chain had at least 180 lawsuits filed against them nationwide for incidents of sexual assault, a new complaint has been filed.

Endurance athlete Christine Schirtzinger had been a long-time client at the west suburban Geneva franchise until an episode in December 2020.

"He was working on her hip flexors and was getting too close to her vaginal area," said Margaret Battersby Black, Perconti & Levin. "She told him to stop. Left the facility that day very shaken up."

Five days later, Schirtzinger filed a police report against massage therapist James Garrett. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor, was sentenced to two years' probation and also registered as a convicted sex offender.

But Schirtzinger's attorneys said their client decided to sue Massage Envy, the franchise owner and the former masseur after finding out Garrett had a felony theft conviction on his record when he was hired.

"Massage Envy has a responsibility... to make sure that they do background checks and screening and that they train their people and they monitor their people to make sure that these kinds of things don't happen," Battersby Black said.

A statement released by Massage Envy in response said, in part: "Massage Envy is committed to promoting a safe environment for members, guests and service providers at each of the approximately 1,100 franchised locations nationwide. We urge anyone who experiences anything other than a safe, quality massage to report it immediately to the franchised location so that it can be investigated. We cannot comment on pending allegations or litigation involving any independently owned and operated franchised location."

ABC7 also reached out to the former massage therapist, James Garrett, but has yet to receive a response.