Erin Andrews of FOX Sports has secured an eight-figure verdict against a man who shot videos of her through a peephole and the hotel where the conduct occurred.
The $55 million verdict will be split between Michael Barrett and the owners/operators of the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University. The jury divided responsibility by assigning 51 percent of the fault to Barrett and 49 percent to the hotel. Under Tennessee law, the hotel will be responsible only for its share of the verdict. That’s likely the only money Andrews will get, beyond whatever her lawyers can extract from Barrett’s real estate holdings and other belongings.
Insurance could be available for the hotel’s liability. Barrett will have a difficult time securing insurance coverage under any policies he owned at the time, given the intentional and deliberate nature of his misconduct.
The verdict is subject to reduction by the presiding judge and be the Tennessee appeals courts. That happens routinely; the $2.86 million verdict in the notorious McDonald’s hot-coffee-was-too-hot case was reduced to $640,000 by the judge before it was resolved without further court proceedings. But it was the verdict not the lower amount that drew the attention.
If this verdict stands, the owners/operators of the hotel could be forced to declare bankruptcy or to essentially hand the keys to the properties to Andrews. That wouldn’t have been the case if lawyers had managed to keep the much more valuable Marriott corporate parent in the case.
“The support I’ve received from the people of Nashville has been overwhelming,” Andrews said on social media following the verdict. “I’ve been honored by all the support from victims around the world. Their outreach has helped me be able to stand up and hold accountable those whose job it is to protect everyone’s safety, security and privacy.”
As noted by the New York Daily News, one of the lawyers representing the hotel tried to suggest during cross examination that Andrews benefited from the leak of video taken of her by Barrett, saying that “your income has gone up substantially since this occurred.” The judge cut off the question, but the damage likely was done — for the defense.
That one question (along with the broader attitude it conveys) may explain the runaway nature of the verdict. Juries don’t issue awards that large unless they are very upset. It’s clear that, by the time the jury got the case, they were furious.