Chicago area triathlete sues Massage Envy after she was sexually assaulted by employee

A mother of four from Geneva is filing a lawsuit against Massage Envy alleging the business knowingly employed a criminal which led to a "preventable" sexual assault. 

Christine Schirtzinger, 51, filed a 37 count civil lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court Wednesday alleging if Massage Envy in Geneva had conducted a proper background check and provided adequate supervision and training, she would not have been sexually assaulted by a massage therapist there.

Schirtzinger was sexually assaulted while undergoing a therapeutic massage in December 2020.

Massage therapist James "Rob" Garrett pled guilty to a sex charge stemming from the incident in March 2022.  

According to the complaint, before he applied to work at Massage Envy located at 116 Commons Drive in Geneva, Garret had a criminal past that included a felony guilty plea for theft. 

Garrett also faced allegations of sexual offenses in 2006, according to the complaint filed. 


Schirtzinger had received massages from Garrett in the past without incident. But according to the complaint, that changed on Dec. 12, 2020 when Garrett violated Schirtzinger with his fingers while giving her a massage. She immediately told him to stop and reported the sexual assault to the Geneva Police Department.

The complaint claims the victim is "an elite Ironman triathlete" and she relied on massage therapy to enable her to continue training and competing.

Garrett was charged with multiple felonies related to the sexual assault. He pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor sexual charge and was placed on 24 months sex offender probation where he was prohibited from massage therapy work. He was also required to register as a sex offender in Illinois.

"I only agreed to the plea deal on a lesser charge because I thought this was a first time offense. When I later found out about his criminal past, I was outraged. Massage Envy violated my trust by putting me alone in a room in my underwear in a highly vulnerable position with a convicted felon with a questionable past," Schirtzinger said. "Before I was assaulted, I assumed Massage Envy was a reputable place. That Massage Envy was so careless with my safety and the safety of other patrons is a huge betrayal."

Despite his guilty plea in March of 2022 and being a registered sex offender, Garrett continued to hold a massage therapy license in the Illinois for seven months following his conviction, the compliant says. 

"Massage Envy must be held accountable as well as the massage therapist because this was 100 percent preventable," the complaintant's lawyers said.

Schirtzinger's lawyers say they learned Garrett inappropriately touched at least one other patron as well.