CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) – Survivors of a mass shooting at a Florida nightclub claim in court that a marketing manager for a Philadelphia-based law firm tried to pressure them into sexual relations while they were clients.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Camden County, New Jersey Superior Court, Javier Nava and Brian Nunez accuse John Groff with the Conrad J. Benedetto Law Firm of repeatedly trying to convince them to engage in sexual activities while being represented by the firm.
“This is a classic case of the #MeToo movement meeting the legal world,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Claypool said in a Monday email.
Nava and Nunez are both survivors of the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Shortly after the shooting, Groff reached out to the men and convinced them to hire his law firm for representation in their damages cases, they claim.
According to the complaint, Groff established a personal relationship with the men via text message before asking them to join him in California and Nevada to try to “recruit” survivors of another mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in October 2017 to also retain the law firm.
It was on this trip when Groff allegedly began making sexual advances on the men, which they promptly rejected.
“We allege that Groff took advantage of and exploited two very vulnerable young men causing immense psychological trauma,” attorney Claypool said in the email.
The complaint contains screenshots of what the plaintiffs say are text messages between the men and Groff that include pornographic images, multiple requests for Groff to perform oral sex on them, and clear rejections from both Nunez and Nava.
In December 2015, Javier Carrasquillo filed a similar complaint against Groff, alleging he said the firm would assist Carrasquillo in his legal issues only if he and his girlfriend entered into a sexual relationship with Groff.
“This lawsuit carries the hope that it will inspire and give strength to those victims who could not, or do not, speak of their own experiences, to account for the dreams that were crushed long ago never to return, due to the retribution against those who spoke up,” the complaint states.
According to Claypool, Groff is still employed at Benedetto Law, which has an office in New Jersey, as a marketing manager.
Benedetto and Groff did not immediately respond Monday to emails seeking comment.
“This litigation will hopefully put an end once and for all to this pattern of sexual harassment of emotionally vulnerable clients and will compensate the victims for the lifelong trauma this has created,” Claypool wrote via email.
Nava and Nunez seek compensatory and punitive damages for claims of sexual harassment and discrimination, retaliation, fraud and negligence.
In addition to Claypool, the plaintiffs are also represented by Matthew Luber with McOmber & McOmber.