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Paul Zimmerman

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Jury Awards Erin Andrews $55 million in Invasion of Privacy Case . . . a First of its Kind

A Nashville, Tennessee Jury has awarded sportscaster Erin Andrews $55 million in her civil lawsuit related to the secret recording and distribution of a nude video filmed during her stay at a Marriott hotel. The jury found operator Windsor Capital 49 percent at fault and stalker Michael David Barrett 51 percent at fault. It also found that Windsor was the agent of owner West End Hotel Partners. After only a few hours of deliberation following a two-week trial, the jury found the hotel operators negligent for failing to protect the privacy of the sportscaster when she was a guest.

Mr. Barrett previously admitted to altering hotel room peepholes in Nashville and Columbus, Ohio, and taking nude videos of Andrews and posting them online. He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison. Defendants West End Hotel Partners had argued that Mr. Barrett’s criminal actions were not foreseeable and therefore the hotel had not breached any duty to Ms. Andrews as their guest. However, the jury ultimately determined that the hotel contributed significantly to the emotional distress experienced by Ms. Andrews. At trial, plaintiffs offered expert testimony that Ms. Andrews suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a consequence of this incident.

This verdict is groundbreaking in several respects. Firstly, there are very few circumstances where the victim of a stalker video actually sees vindication in civil court. Secondly, a verdict of this size against a hotel that is almost completely based on a finding of emotional distress is exceedingly uncommon. This verdict sends a clear signal to the hospitality industry: that hotel owners and operators need to review and fortify their practices with respect to how room number information is handled and how to address guest requests for specific rooms. What was once unforeseeable is now an unfortunate reality of the hospitality industry.

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.