Erin Andrews has been awarded $55 million in her lawsuit against the owner of the Nashville hotel in which she was filmed while changing clothes in her room, the hotel’s former management group and the man who did it and uploaded the footage to the Internet. Andrews had asked for $75 million in her lawsuit over the 2008 incident, claiming ongoing emotional distress from the episode and the video’s continued existence online.
The 37-year-old Fox Sports and ABC reporter was working for ESPN at the time, and she grew tearful at several points during her testimony, that of her father, when the jury was shown the video, in which she appears naked, and when the verdict was announced. Her attorneys claimed the Nashville Marriott, owned by West End Hotel Partners, was negligent in allowing Michael David Barrett to learn of her room number and to rent his own room adjacent to it; the hotel is a franchise and the Marriott corporation was not part of the suit.
A jury of seven women and five men found Barrett, whose 2013 deposition in which he explained how he filmed Andrews was played in court, responsible for 51 percent and the hotel companies for the rest. According to the Associated Press, several jurors hugged Andrews after the Monday verdict was announced and one appeared to be seeking her autograph.
Marriott’s defense team had claimed that the video was good for the career of Andrews, who has gone from being a sideline reporter for ESPN to a studio host for Fox Sports and a co-host of the popular show, “Dancing With the Stars.” They also argued that Barrett was solely responsible for what had happened.
On the stand, Andrews acknowledged that she had “done very well” in her career since the video went viral in 2009. But she also said that she has changed as a person, becoming more bitter and less trustful, and that she is constantly, and unhappily, reminded of the video’s existence.
“This happens every day of my life,” Andrews testified, while tearful. “Either I get a tweet or somebody makes a comment in the paper or somebody sends me a still video to my Twitter or someone screams it at me in the stands and I’m right back to this. I feel so embarrassed and I am so ashamed.”
Steven Andrews, her father, corroborated the reporter’s description of herself. “She’s scared,” he told the jury last week. “She’s terrified. She’s depressed. She cries. She’s full of anxiety. She’s a very, very changed person. She’s not the girl that we used to know at all.”
Marc Dedman, an attorney for the hotel, said that his team and his clients were disappointed in the verdict. He said that he was not sure if the Nashville Marriott or its ownership company would end up filing for bankruptcy.
Erin Andrews jury split damages between the stalker — who went to jail over this — and the hotel companies — $28 and $26m respectively.
West End Hotel Partners released the following statement (via The Tennessean):
“West End Hotel Partners aims to provide and maintain safeguards throughout our properties, including the Nashville Marriott, to protect all of our guests, employees and customers. We regret the criminal acts which happened to Ms. Andrews during her stay in 2008 and the pain she has continued to endure. These acts Mr. Barrett committed serve as a reminder to the hotel industry to review safety and security procedures that ensure a first-rate experience to all guests. We are committed to providing a safe and hospitable environment for all of our guests and employees.”
Barrett, a former Chicago-area insurance company executive, was convicted in 2009 of stalking Andrews and filming her in Nashville and in Columbus, Ohio. He served 20 months in prison, and was released in 2012. In his taped deposition, Barrett claimed that he had come across Andrews while searching Yahoo for trending personalities, and that he had tried to sell the footage to TMZ before posting it online.
The jury heard Barrett say that he went to the hotel restaurant and used a house phone to ask to be connected to Andrews’s room. When the hotel complied, he was able to see her room number displayed on the phone, and after ascertaining that there was an empty room next to hers, he went to the front desk and was able to book it.
“I’m not proud of what I did,” Barrett said in his taped testimony (via the New York Post). “I didn’t like what I did.”