After 8 long years of litigation, the survivor of the Bikram Case may see monetary relief
At the vulnerable age of 18, Jill Lawler joined Bikram’s Yoga Training Seminar and set out on her life’s dream of becoming a Bikram Yoga instructor. As the lawsuit alleges, this dream quickly turned into a nightmare when, after being groomed in cultish environment, Lawler was sexually assaulted and raped by a then 66-year-old Bikram Choudhury, who took every advantage of his role, stature, and prestige.
To this end, as the lawsuit alleges, Choudhury used his exhaustive teacher training program to force Lawler and numerous other victims into submission, and once exhausted, he would invite these female students to his hotel room late at night to watch movies so he could have his way with them against their will.
Infamously, the now disgraced yoga guru once told an HBO interviewer that he doesn’t need to force himself on women because “famous, beautiful, rich women” line up for him and “people spend $1 million for one drop of my sperm.”
Today – after eight tumultuous years of litigation ups and downs – plaintiff Jill Lawler achieved some vindication in her case against the Choudhury. Due to Choudhury and his Yoga College’s repeated and willful discovery failures, refusal to follow the rules, and generally thumbing their noses at our legal system, terminating sanctions and default judgment were entered against Choudhury and his now defunct College, to be proven in the amount of $7,737,622.44.
After several verdicts and defaults against him in the range of tens of millions of dollars, Choudhury left the country in 2016 and took painstaking efforts to abscond with his fortune and hide his assets as best possible. The next year, his College filed bankruptcy.
Thus, Lawler’s only avenue of recovery are insurance policies, such as those issued by AIG subsidiaries. They, however, have offered Lawler $50,000, a paltry amount given her claims and the lasting damage Choudhury caused. From Lawler’s perspective, have refused to negotiate in good faith, but instead shield themselves with a policy with an unlimited defense fund to cover attorneys’ fees that has instead allowed Choudhury and the College’s attorneys to fight tooth and nail. While terminating sanctions have eliminated the need for a jury in Lawler’s matter, the jury is out in terms of the propriety of the behavior of such insurance companies.
Lawler is currently represented by Carney Shegerian and William Reed of Shegerian & Associates. “While this is victory for all sexual assault victims and the many, many women who have suffered at the hands of Birkam Choudhury, Jill will never be made whole even if we are able to collect a part of the monies owed,” said Shegerian. “Like a coward, Bikram has avoided his egregious misdeeds and refused to participate in the legal system of the very country in which he built his now crumbled business empire.”
Case Number: BC 572 579