Case Name: Erin Andrews vs. West End Hotel Partners, et. Al.
Case Number: 11C-4831
Case filed: Dec 2, 2011; In The Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee
Type of Case: Personal Injury, Emotional Distress
Verdict: March 7, 2016
Judgment: $55 Million
GB&W’s trial team lead by partner, Bruce Broillet, represented FOX Sports reporter and TV personality, Erin Andrews in her case against a hotel for its misconduct, which led to a stalker secretly (and without her knowledge) shooting video of Andrews in her hotel room in the nude.
The high profile trial, covered extensively by national and international media outlets, helped shed light on the issue of online trafficking of non-consensual pornography. The case has prompted lawmakers in various states to address stronger protections against stalking and enacting heavier penalties against anyone convicted of unlawfully photographing another person for sexual gratification. The verdict also resulted in significant changes to hotel procedures in order to insure the safety, security and privacy of hotel guests all over America, including California.
Andrews was staying at the Marriott at Vanderbilt University in 2008 while on assignment at the time as an ESPN sportscaster. At trial Andrews’ attorneys revealed that the Marriott hotel staff told the perpetrator, Michael Barrett that Ms. Andrews was staying at the hotel and granted his request to stay in an adjacent room. The trial revealed that the hotel had confirmed to Barrett that Andrews was a guest at the hotel days before she arrived. The staff then gave Barrett a room next to Andrews, without ever telling her about the inquiry or their decision to comply with his unilateral request.
Testimony revealed the hotel staff gave Barrett a reservation in the room next to Andrews because Barrett was a Marriott Rewards customer, and admitted at trial they did it because they wanted to keep the customer happy and coming back. Andrews testified that, had the hotel told her what was going on, she would have called the police and left the hotel.
Barrett testified that he altered the hotel room’s peephole and secretly filmed Andrews naked after she got out of the shower. Months later he attempted to sell the video footage for profit but was unsuccessful. Instead Barrett uploaded the images to the Internet. After the video went public, Andrews suffered intense feelings of embarrassment, shame and humiliation. An expert witness at trial testified that conservatively, at least 16.7 million people had viewed the video online since 2009.
37-year-old Andrews, who had aspired to become a sportscaster from the time she was a little girl, had worked diligently to achieve her dream of being on-air at the network level. She testified at trial about the long-term emotional impact, which includes depression and feelings of anxiety that she would not be taken seriously in her profession.
Civil case verdict in Tennessee must be unanimous and the Nashville jury handed Andrews a unanimous $55 million verdict, finding Barrett 51 percent at fault and the hotel 49 percent at fault. The hotel and Andrews later reached a confidential verdict in April 2016. This verdict and verdict has held the hotel accountable for failing to provide adequate protections, privacy, safety and security, and it has changed the way that the industry conducts business.
The trial which happened in Nashville contributed to mobilizing efforts to pass a bill (HB 1779) under consideration in Tennessee that would require people convicted of illegally taking photos or video of someone for sexual reasons, to register as a sex offender.
Andrews’ case also helped further efforts to introduce a bill in California called Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act, or STALKERS. The goal of the legislation was to strengthen anti-stalking laws and empower prosecutors by increasing the scope of existing laws to cover acts of electronic monitoring, including spyware, bugging, video surveillance and other new technologies as they develop.
Aside from Andrews’ celebrity status, the jury’s award has motivated the hotel industry to do a better job of protecting everyone’s safety, security and privacy. The exposure of this incident helped raise awareness and brought attention to the severity of this security lapse.
This groundbreaking case has invigorated a debate over changes in policy as more victims feel empowered to speak out about public safety and the protection of privacy. The outcome was widely praised by legal analysts and television commentators, providing a positive example to the public of the civil justice system and lawsuits at work.