Representing Erin Andrews
Bruce Broillet and Scott Carr on the case heard ‘round the world
Published in 2017 Southern California Super Lawyers magazine on January 20, 2017
In September 2008, ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews checked into the Nashville Marriott to work the sidelines of the Vanderbilt University football game across the street. It seemed like a routine assignment. It led to an unending nightmare.
Michael Barrett, a middle-aged man who was stalking Andrews, took several videos of her naked through the peephole door to her room, which he’d altered. After unsuccessfully trying to sell the video to gossip news site TMZ, Barrett posted it online, where it went viral. He was arrested by the FBI and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
In addition, Andrews filed a $75 million civil lawsuit against not only Barrett but the Nashville Marriott, its management company, Windsor Capital Group, and owner West End Hotel Partners, for negligence and invasion of privacy. At issue was how Barrett got so close to her.
“She didn’t have to stand up,” says Scott Carr of Santa Monica-based Greene Broillet & Wheeler, who represented Andrews with Bruce Broillet and Nashville counsel Randall Kinnard. “There was no reason for her to put herself in that vulnerable position, to stand up there in front of the world and bare her soul. She did it because she didn’t want to see this happen to anyone else.”
“This issue resonated with everybody and we saw it all across the country,” says Broillet. He adds that Andrews, who has worked with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota on anti-stalking laws and inspired advocacy on Change.org, “had a phenomenal resolve.”
During the trial, Carr and Broillet recounted how Andrews had wanted to be a sportscaster since the age of 7. They highlighted her encyclopedic sports knowledge, asking, “Who knows the most about sports in this room?” On the stand, her father said the incident had changed her: “She’s terrified. She’s depressed. She cries. She’s full of anxiety.” During his testimony, Andrews broke down, and again when she herself testified.
Marriott’s defense team claimed the lawsuit was good for Andrews’ career—an argument that sparked a nationwide conversation on empathy. “They wanted to make this point that she had been successful in her career and so forth,” says Broillet. “But for celebrities, there’s a public persona and a reality of what’s going on in their personal lives. Yes, in one sense Erin Andrews is living her dream. But in another sense she’s living a nightmare.”
Defense lawyers also argued that Barrett was solely to blame for the incident. Carr and Broillet countered that Nashville Marriott was negligent in allowing Barrett to learn Andrews’ room number.
The $75 million figure was based on the calculations of an internet expert at Penn State University, who determined that the video had already been viewed 16.7 million times, and was still being viewed at the rate of more than a half-million times per year. “Nobody knows of any way to get it off the internet,” Broillet adds.
After a two-week trial in early 2016, jurors deemed Barrett 51 percent responsible and the other parties 49 percent responsible, and awarded Andrews $55 million. A few weeks later, Andrews, who is now a correspondent for Fox Sports, settled to put a halt to the appeals process.
“There is no greater motivation for these hotels than the prospect of financial accountability,” says Broillet. “If they know they’re going to have to pay for not doing things the right way, they’re going to do things the right way.
“Her courage has redounded to the benefit of everybody in America who goes to hotels,” he adds. “The improvement of the quality of safety and security in the way hotels conduct their business had been advanced enormously by the fact that Erin stood up and made a statement about what is right.”