Sportscaster Erin Andrews has been awarded a settlement of $55 million for damages sustained after a stranger secretly recorded her in the nude in 2008 at the Nashville Marriott and then posted the video on the Internet.
Andrews had sued the franchise owner of the Nashville Marriott, West End Partners; the Windsor Capital Group that manages the hotel and Michael Barrett, the man who filmed Andrews by removing peepholes from her door and pointing his cell phone camera into her room.
Barrett pleaded guilty to stalking in 2009 and served prison time. The former delivery truck driver testified during the trial that his motivation for filming Andrews was financial, and that he was “not proud” of what he had done.
Andrews testified during the trial that the video still haunts her. “I think about it every day,” she said.
“One of the worst thoughts I have is when I walk around a stadium … there’s always that thought, as I walk right by the stands, and I think, ‘My God, everyone in this stadium has seen that video.’ ”
A forensic computer expert testified at trial that an estimated 16.8 million people had seen the video. A psychologist, Dr. Kim Brown of Vanderbilt University, testified that Andrews suffers from mild post-traumatic stress disorder.
Andrews, 37, who worked for ESPN at the time of the video but now works for Fox Sports, said, “It’s on the Internet now,” adding, “And I’ve been told it’s going to be on the Internet until I die.”Trial Hinged on Whether Hotel Was at Fault
The trial hinged on the issue of whether or not the managers of the Nashville Marriott should be held liable for Barrett’s actions.
Defense attorneys argued that the incident was a freak occurrence that the hotel couldn’t have prevented, and that Barrett is solely to blame.
Lawyers for Andrews, meanwhile, alleged that hotel employees confirmed to Barrett where Andrews was staying and allowed him to book a room next to hers.
Testimony varied on how Barrett knew where Andrews was staying, and whether a hotel employee told Barrett which room Andrews was in and then allowed him to reserve a room next to hers.
In his closing statement, Andrews’s attorney, Bruce Broillet, said, “Right from the beginning they gave out information that they shouldn’t have and multiple hotel witnesses in this case admitted that was a violation.”
He added that the hotel should have “cut off the snake at the head” by not telling Barrett that she was staying there, and that the hotel didn’t have proper security because they failed to notice that Barrett had tampered with the peepholes.
“The Nashville Marriott could have just called me and said, ‘We’re putting this man that requested to be next to you [next door]: Is this okay?’ And I could have called the cops and we could have caught him and could have stopped this,” Andrews testified.
The defense countered that Barrett, and not the hotel, was at fault. “Are banks responsible for bank robbers?” defense attorney Marc Dedman said in closing arguments.
Defense witness Stephen Barth, a professor of hospitality law at Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College, said, “It’s my opinion that the [Nashville] Marriott met or exceeded its duty of care to Ms. Andrews on the day this incident occurred.”
Barth compared Barrett’s videotaping of Andrews to bed bugs, saying it’s “impossible to guarantee no bed bugs,” no matter how many times a bed is cleaned or how often rooms are inspected.
The defense also called Herman Turk, Regional Vice President of Windsor Capitol Group, the hotel’s management company, who oversaw the Nashville Marriott in 2008. Turk testified the hotel scored 100 percent on its undercover security assessment examination in June 2008, three months before the video was taken.Witness Allegedly Played Video for Friends During Trial
The trial took a strange turn after allegations surfaced on Twitter that a witness for the defense had shown the video to friends at a dinner Tuesday night, according to reports.
The tweets, which have since been deleted, alleged that Peskind, who testified for the defense on Monday in the Andrews case, told friends that the lawsuit was going to cost him millions, so he wanted to show the video to people. The tweets also claimed Peskind made fun of Andrews’ body. The restaurant employee called the incident “vulgar and shocking,” and said the group had to be told to stop.
Later on Wednesday, Peskind issued a statement claiming he did not show the video of Andrews but that someone else at the table did.
“I was at a private dinner meeting with friends,” he said. “They brought up the allegations, and they started viewing the video. I asked them to stop, and while they did so, it was not as quickly as I had hoped. This incident has been blown into something it was not. I would never disrespect Ms. Andrews and what she has been through. This is a very unfortunate situation that should not be a reflection on West End Hotel Partners or to our commitment to the issues in this case surrounding what happened to her. I sincerely apologize for my participation in what happened.”Former Bachelor Star and ESPN Colleague Jesse Palmer Testified
A notable witness during the trial was Jesse Palmer, the ESPN football analyst who formerly played in the NFL and starred on The Bachelor.
Palmer testified that Andrews was “more reserved” after a secretly recorded nude video vent viral in 2009, but said her professional performance during broadcasts was “impressive.”
During the trial, defense attorneys seemed to suggest that Andrews’ career has thrived since the video was shot, pointing to Andrews’ endorsement deals and the fact that Andrews has gotten better contracts from her employers since then.
Andrews testified that her career has enabled her to cope with the aftermath of the video’s release.
“I feel like if I can do the top NFL game, and I can work the World Series and hand out trophies, then people will forget. I feel like if I can compete onDancing with the Stars and make it to the finale and host the show and have all these things on my plate … people will forget … and hopefully I will forget.”