By: Adam Tamburin, email@example.com
A Nashville jury on Monday awarded television broadcaster Erin Andrews $55 million, to be split between her stalker, and a Nashville hotel's management group and owner.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for seven hours after the nine-day negligence trial. Andrews filed the lawsuit about six years ago against Michael David Barrett, a man who secretly recorded her through an altered peephole in her room at Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University in September 2008, and the hotel owner and operator.
Andrews sought as much as $75 million from Barrett; the hotel owner, West End Hotel Partners; and the hotel management company, Windsor Capital Group. She also sued Marriott International, but Circuit Court Judge Hamilton Gayden dismissed claims against the hotel giant in late January saying that, among other reasons, the franchisor was not responsible for security at a local hotel.
The trial began on Feb. 22, and the jury heard seven days of testimony. They heard from hotel executives and front-desk staff; from hotel safety experts and a social worker and a psychologist; from a former NFL player who worked with Andrews; from the stalker and from Andrews and her parents.
Andrews described in two days of testimony how the videos going viral on the Internet in July 2009 turned her into a shell of her former self, and how she has devoted herself to her career as way to cope and prove she is a professional, not the woman known for the peephole scandal.
The jurors also saw 4 1/2 minutes of video Barrett secretly recorded of Andrews nude in her hotel room on Sept. 4, 2008 while she prepared for a Thursday night Vanderbilt University football game, and a 6-second clip he recorded of her in Feb. 2008 at a hotel on Ohio State University's campus. At the time, Andrews worked as a sidelines reporter for ESPN.
Barrett tried to sell the videos to celebrity gossip website TMZ but was turned down. He then posted them online.
Andrews was unaware of the videos until July 2009, when they began spreading around the Internet like wildfire, and on the day she had been auditioning for "Dancing with the Stars." She now works for Fox Sports and co-hosts the dance competition show on ABC.
According to trial testimony, in just six years the videos were watched more than 16.8 million times.
Attorneys for the hotel, led by Marc Dedman and Brent Usery of Spicer Rudstrom law firm in Nashville, argued at trial that Barrett alone was to blame and said the hotel companies could not be held responsible for his criminal actions. They also focused questions on Andrews' success after the videos were leaked.
Barrett pleaded guilty to a federal stalking charge in 2009 and served 20 months in prison.
But Andrews' attorneys, Randall Kinnard of Nashville and Bruce Broillet of California, argued the hotel staff enabled Barrett. They said staff never verified Barrett's request for a room adjoining Andrews' and allowed Barrett to find Andrews' room.