$55 Million. That’s a lot of money. I can’t claim to have ever gotten a verdict that big. Not even close. Almost no one has.
What is more stunning is that the verdict was purely for emotional, not physical harm. No amputated arm or leg. No paralysis. No scars. She is still beautiful. She still has a stunningly successful career as a sports broadcaster for Fox.
Yes, I am blogging about the Erin Andrews verdict.
The stalker who secretly filmed her is doing time. What he did was a crime. The hotel committed no crime – it is not criminally liable. But it is civilly liable. The jury was asked to apportion fault between the stalker/filmer and the hotel. It said the stalker was 51% liable and the hotel 49% liable.
Does that surprise you? What did the hotel do wrong? Answer: The hotel personnel negligently allowed a stalker to (1) find out and then confirm which room Andrews was staying in and (2) reserve for himself the room right next door to her (3) and all this without advising Andrews that some strange guy she did not know was asking to be placed next to her. Yes, in my view, that’s negligent.
At most Andrews will collect 49% of the $55 million from the hotel. The stalker is likely “judgment proof”, meaning that he is so poor that trying to collect on a judgment against him is like trying to get water from a rock.
Yet still, even 49% of $55 million is a lot!
I do not mean to downplay the horrendous ordeal Ms. Andrews surely suffered from having a video recording of her naked on cyberspace which millions of people – many of them sickos — have searched, clicked and viewed. She has to live with the fact that this will NEVER stop. The video will be out there in cyberspace FOREVER.
And yes, she gave highly emotional, compelling, tearful testimony about the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation she suffered and continues to suffer. About the nasty tweets she gets. About the (sick!) taunts from the public about the videos. About the extremely insulting comments from some who theorize she engineered the video scandal as a publicity stunt.
Still, $55 million is a lot!
How to explain the surprising size of this verdict? I think it tells us something about juries. They award money not just to compensate, but to punish. The defense stirred up anger by arguing that Andrews had actually profited from the “exposure”, so why should the jury give her more money? Dumb argument. Insulting argument. On cross-examination, the hotel’s lawyer went so far as to quiz her about her increased endorsement deals since the video’s release.
Yes, with verdicts, size matters. Size sends a message. The message here was loud and clear: “Hotel, your actions were insensitive, and your defense of this case is beyond insulting. It adds insult to injury.”
Negligence is one thing, hubris is another.
As the old saying goes, “money talks”. The jury in the Erin Andrews case sure had a lot to say . . . .
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.