The Erin Andrews Verdict: What Does It Mean for The Hotel Industry?
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
A Tennessee jury ruled in favor of celebrity sportscaster Erin Andrews Monday in her civil trial against the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University and her stalker, Michael David Barrett, awarding her $55 million in damages.
After seven days of testimony and seven hours of deliberation, the jury determined that the hotel's owner, West End Hotel Partners, and operator, the Windsor Capital Group were 49 percent responsible for a September 2008 incident in which Barrett filmed Andrews in the nude through a peephole from the room next door. The footage was uploaded to the Internet the next year.
Soon after Andrews filed a lawsuit against Barrett — who was sentenced to 30 months in prison for stalking — the hotel's owner, operator and Marriott International.
Although a judge deemed Marriott not liable in this case considering the company doesn't own or operate the hotel where the incident occurred, the company's image has undoubtedly taken a hit.
"This case was closely followed by those in the hotel industry and the jury verdict of $55 million sent a shockwave through the industry," said sports lawyer Dan Werly.
Given the case's high profile, Werly anticipates hotels will take precautions moving forward in hopes of avoiding a similar incident in the future.
"I would expect that nearly every hotel will review — if it hasn't already — its policies and procedures related to costumer privacy and safety. I would also anticipate that many hotel chains implement additional employee training on these requirements."
In separate statements following the verdict, both West End Hotel Partners and the Windsor Capital Group said the incident should be a lesson to the entire hotel industry.
"These acts Mr. Barrett committed serve as a reminder to the hotel industry to review safety and security procedures that ensure a first-rate experience to all guests," said West End Hotel Partners in a statement.
Meanwhile, Windsor Capital Group chairman and CEO Patrick Nesbitt told the Tennessean that the incident "should serve as a call to action for the entire hotel industry to be diligent in ensuring our guests' safety and privacy."
However a call to action would imply that the industry isn't doing enough already.
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While some feel the verdict will spur widespread change within the hotel industry, analyst Felix Wang feels the potential repercussions will be isolated to where the incident occurred.
"I do think there will be some internal meetings at certain Marriotts (particularly in Nashville) as a result of the spotlight on this incident," said Wang via email. "I don't think there will be a corporate decision from Marriott headquarters to reevaluate personnel policies."
"This seems one-off than anything else."
Regardless of how Marriott and other hotel chains respond, it's clear the verdict is a black eye for the industry.
"I would expect that those companies are also paying close attention," added Werly. "Although they were not legally involved, the brand name 'Marriott' took a huge PR hit as a result of this case."
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