Erin Andrews, a FOX Sports reporter and television personality, will be returning to Nashville on Monday for the trial of her negligence suit against a Marriott hotel, according to a report from USA Today.
The $75 million suit, filed against the Marriott hotel, Windsor Capital Group, and a man named David Barrett, alleges that the hotel showed negligence and inflicted emotional distress and invaded her privacy by allowing Barrett, 50, to book the room next to her, rig peepholes, and film her changing, taking nude photos and nude videos.
According to The Tennessean, Andrews originally filed suit against Marriott International, but Circuit Court Judge Hamilton Gayden dismissed the claims, indicating that the chain was not responsible for security at a local franchise hotel, among other reasons.
Andrews filed her civil suit in 2010, two years after the events occurred; she was in Nashville to cover a Vanderbilt University football game when the nude videos were taken.
Barrett was arrested in 2009 and pled guilty to stalking and shooting the nude videos, which court documents indicate he also released on the internet. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and currently resides in Oregon.
The Marriott, meanwhile, released a statement indicating that while they expressed sympathy for Andrews’ ordeal, they would remain firm that the hotel was not responsible, that the incident was carried out by a third-party.
“As we have maintained since this matter first came to our attention, however, Marriott International was not responsible for what happened to Ms. Andrews, and we are pleased that the Court has dismissed Marriott International from the case. Marriott International continues to be sensitive to the serious nature of this matter and remains committed to the safety and comfort of our guests.”
In a separate piece, USA Today notes that the face of celebrity stalking has changed considerably over the last few years, due partly to the all-encompassing nature of the internet, and partly due to the increased prevalence of surveillance tools. Professor Danielle Citron of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School noted that the nude videos had ended up fairly widely-disseminated in 2008, and that the fallout in 2016 would be far worse – as seen in the 2014 iCloud celebrity nude photo leak, in which a collection of almost 500 private celebrity images were leaked onto the internet. Many contained nudity, some were underage, and the cat has proven impossible to put back in the bag since.
And although Barrett’s methods for obtaining the nude videos may be considered fairly primitive, we now live in a day and age when everyone carries a high-definition camera in their pockets, and the technology only continues to improve. On top of that, many devices, including laptops and game consoles, now contain always-on cameras and are always online – and not only is no security foolproof, many have poor security to begin with. Hackers with a little knowledge, using publicly-available tools such as Shodan, can find and examine internet-enabled devices in a matter of seconds.
While $75 million seems like a little too much, Andrews’ case, which is expected to last 10 days, may have far-reaching consequences. It is likely that the charges will be dismissed, at least against the Marriott hotel and the Windsor Capital Group; Andrews would have to prove that the hotel was culpable in the taking or releasing of her nude videos, and it seems unlikely that the hotel was actively involved. But it does ask the question of how much responsibility hotels hold for the actions of their guests, and if successful, may establish a precedent for further cases. And that precedent could end up affecting anyone staying in a hotel in America.
Meanwhile, celebrity stalking cases continue to become more common, and almost all of them involve the internet. And while maybe there’s not much we can do about that, perhaps we owe it to women to try; whatever comes of Andrews’ case, the emotional distress of having your privacy invaded by a stalker is real.
[Photo by Harry How/Getty Images]