Case Overview

On February 29, 2024, a Lancaster jury awarded more than $10 million to ten former customers of a popular Lancaster holistic health spa who claimed massage therapist Matthew Schaitel sexually abused them during visits between 2019 and 2021.

The 8-person jury deliberated two hours after a 9-day trial in which the women shared their accounts of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Schaitel, which included the use of inappropriate, sexually-driven touch on the women while claiming it was therapeutically appropriate and flagrantly violating industry standards of care to carry out his abuse.

“We are grateful to our clients who endured a long and painful path to hold Schaitel accountable for his actions,” said lead trial attorney Lynn Ellenberger from FeganScott, the firm that represented the women. “It is their collective courage that helped bring these issues to light, ensuring that Schaitel can never prey upon women in his role as a massage therapist again.”

The case against Schaitel was heard in the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas and follows a multi-million settlement entered just before plaintiffs’ closed their case against the spa, Natural Remedies Massage, resolving claims that the spa did not take necessary steps to ensure patient safety by ignoring complaints about Schaitel’s abuse and allowing him to continue to isolate and abuse women in his position as a massage therapist.

“These women trusted Natural Remedies to employ professional, trained massage therapists. Instead, they were exposed to a serial predator who abused them for his sexual gratification,” said Ellenberger. “The jury heard the evidence and demonstrated by their verdict that they, too, found Schaitel’s actions repugnant. This verdict sends a clear message that survivors can – and will – hold predators accountable for their actions, and the industries that harbor them.” Other members of the FeganScott trial team included associates Yujin Choi and Paige Smith and paralegal Mary Dugan.

The verdict included more than $5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, plus attorney fees and certain out of pocket costs.

Ellenberger added that in her work representing victims of sex abuse, one of the biggest hurdles in stopping abusers is the fear victims feel stepping forward.

“My clients have told me time and again how terrifying it can be to stand up and call out an abuser, bringing about a torrent of emotions including fear, shame and anxiety,” Ellenberger said. “In this case, as if almost universally true, when victims know they are not alone, they can draw strength from one another and secure powerful results that empower others to do the same.”

The original lawsuit was filed in Fairfield County, Ohio, in June 2021 by FeganScott on behalf of three spa customers against Matthew Schaitel and Natural Remedies Massage. Following the original filing, eight additional women came forward saying they were abused by Schaitel and were added to the complaint. Ultimately, ten of those women proceeded to trial.

Natural Remedies Massage is based in Lancaster, Ohio, and provides a range of massage and spa services including aromatic medicine, float tanks and holistic health coaching.