The article headline has been updated. An earlier version had Erin Andrews vs. Marriott: Inside the $75 Million Peephole Lawsuit Against a Major Hotel Chain. Marriott International was dismissed from the case.
Anyone on a business trip would be horrified if someone recorded a video of them undressing in the privacy of their hotel room, but for reporter and host Erin Andrews, the violation was magnified when the video was uploaded to the web and viewed more than 300 million times. Now she wants justice.
On Monday, a civil trial began in which Andrews is suing a Marriott hotel after it allowed a stalker to get an adjacent hotel room to hers where he set up a camera through a rigged peephole and recorded her undressing.
She is seeking $75 million in damages claiming negligence, emotional distress and invasion of privacy, among other things. The defendants are The Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University, the hotel’s owner West End Hotel Partners, the management company Windsor Capital Group and Michael David Barrett, Andrew's stalker.
Andrews’ attorney Randall Kinnard told jurors the employees of the Nashville hotel were negligent when Barrett called in 2008 and asked what room Andrews was staying in. (She was in the city to report on a Vanderbilt football game.) He was informed of the room number, enabling him to book the room next door and capture the video.
In Dec. 2009 Barret plead guilty to interstate stalking after he admitted to renting hotel rooms next to Andrews in three cities, including Nashville, where he secretly recorded videos of her undressing and tried to sell the nude videos online. He was sentenced to 30 months.
Related: 5 Ways to Cut Business Travel Costs
Kinnard explained that Andrews was horrified and humiliated when she discovered the secret recording – and the hotel should be held accountable.
But is $75 million an unreasonable amount to ask a business to pay?
“Since the footage was uploaded to the Internet and will never go away, she is entitled to damages,” says Aaron Bloom a trial lawyer at Los Angeles-based TroyGould Attorneys. “However, she dropped her claim for damages associated with loss of income, and $75 million in damages would be excessive for her remaining claims for damages (e.g., emotional distress). I think Erin Andrews is very likely to prevail at trial, but the amount of damages awarded to her will likely be only a fraction of the $75 million she is seeking.”
Bloom, along with other experts, believe Andrews case is strong, and it will be up to the defendants to chip away at her claims by providing evidence showing the hotel did not act unreasonably when allowing Barrett to reserve a room next to Andrews.
According to Stephen Ma, partner at Los Angeles-based Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae, the defense may present the following issues to make their argument stronger:
- Does Marriott have a reasonable protocol in place to protect the privacy of its guests? Are Marriott employees allowed to disclose a guest’s hotel room?
- Does Marriott have a reasonable protocol for security at the hotel? For example, are there cameras or other security measures to protect against attacks, theft, Peeping Toms, etc.? If Marriott has such protocols, did the relevant Marriott employees or agents violate those protocols?
- Did Marriott have any reason to believe that Barrett was trying to film Andrews? How often did he call? How did he locate Andrews' hotel room? What reason did he give for selecting the hotel room next to Andrews?
It has been reported that the case is expected to last 10 days.