A yoga guru and his school won a round in court Monday when a judge ruled that a psychologist chosen by the defense can conduct a mental examination of an ex-student who sued, alleging the teacher made unwanted sexual advances toward her.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy said the request by Bikram Choudhury’s attorneys to have Francine Kulick do a psychological evaluation of Sarah Baughn is reasonable, given that the plaintiff’s lawyers allege their client suffered severe emotional distress because of her former boss’ alleged conduct toward her.
Baughn sued Choudhury and his West Los Angeles-based Yoga College of India in March 2013. The suit states that Baughn began training at age 20 under Choudhury in 2005, hoping that she would get help for years of back pain and depression. But she alleges that her mentor treated young women like her differently than other students, picking them to brush his hair or give him massages.
Baughn alleges Choudhury cornered her late one night and made it clear she had to sleep with him in order to advance her career.
Her complaint is one of many filed by yoga practitioners and teachers who accuse Choudhury of abusing his position as the head of a business focusing on “hot yoga” to sexually harass or abuse women. His yoga sessions typically involve sessions conducted in temperatures of 100 degrees or higher.
Choudhury’s lawyers said stated in their court papers that they needed to have the mental evaluation performed to determine whether there are other causes of Baughn’s alleged emotional setbacks that are unrelated to her experiences with Choudhury. The judge said the motion was well-taken.
“Plaintiff’s past mental state is relevant to the issue of causation,” Murphy said.
At the urging of plaintiff’s attorney Vanessa Deniston, Murphy put some limitations on the examination given that Baughn had a baby late last year and is now nursing. He said Kulick’s evaluation can last up to eight hours, but that no session can take longer than four hours in a single day.
Baughn says her father helped her get a $7,000 loan so she could study under Choudhury.
—City News Service