CURRENT EVENT: ERIN ANDREWS HOTEL STALKER LAWSUIT
Former ESPN broadcaster Erin Andrews was secretly filmed in her Nashville Marriott hotel room in 2008 by stalker Michael David Barrett. Millions watched the recording via the internet. After he was convicted of criminal charges, Andrews filed a civil suit against Barrett and the operators of the Nashville Marriott, West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital. Following an emotional trial, Erin Andrews was awarded $55 million dollars. The question remains: will she actually receive all of this money?
Unfortunately, Ms. Andrews may end up receiving only a fraction of the award. In many civil cases where there are co-defendants, joint and several liability exists. This means that the plaintiff can collect the award from both of the defendants or either one of them individually. However, recent changes to the law in Tennessee have changed this rule. If both parties did not intentionally take part in the crime alleged, then joint and several liability does not apply.
Here, Barrett likely does not have any funds to pay toward the judgment. West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital will argue that they did not intentionally take part in the crime and therefore are not responsible for Barrett’s portion of the judgment. However, the fact that the Andrews suit was filed prior to the institution of the changes to some of these laws may have an effect on whether or not this argument is effective.
Other factors may play in as well. There is no assurance that the hotel operators have the money to pay the judgment. They may have to file bankruptcy or they may choose to appeal. If she does receive some money from a negotiated settlement or from the judgment, attorney’s fees and other expenses will work to further lessen the amount she ultimately receives.
This case works to show that the acquisition of a judgment in a civil suit is only first step in resolving the situation. After the judgment is awarded, collection must be pursued from the defendant. The ability of the defendant to pay is clearly a major consideration to be taken into account when evaluating whether or not to pursue a civil matter.