As you may know, Marriott's attorneys made a stunning decision in court this week. Their attorneys have generated a media and public relations storm of criticism and ill will. It's remarkable that Marriott permitted this to happen. As Sports Illustrated explained:
The trial in Erin Andrews’s lawsuit against the Nashville Marriott continued Tuesday. Andrews, currently a sideline reporter with Fox Sports and host of Dancing with the Stars, is suing the hotel for allowing a stalker to book the room next to hers and surreptitiously film nude videos of her in 2008 while she worked for ESPN. The stalker, Michael David Barrett, posted the videos online and plead guilty to stalking charges, for which he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. ...
On Tuesday, Marriott’s defense argued that Andrews benefited professionally from the release of the video....
What were they thinking? Even if they win the lawsuit, my gut says this is going to cost them more than a handful of customers....
["You’d be hard-pressed to find a defense more disgusting than the one the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University used against Erin Andrews. ... On Tuesday, the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University’s defense went so far as to say the violation of Andrews’ privacy was good for her career."]
EF: What do you think of Marriott’s legal strategy in pointing out how Andrews has profited from the publicity of the incident?
If this case involved a typical person, I would understand that strategy better because what Marriott is trying to show is that her damages should not be considered that high. The company is arguing that she has benefited in some way from this publicity. That strikes me as a regrettable strategy. For one, this case is being televised, and it seems at a minimum grossly insensitive, not only to the jurors but to the millions that are following this case. And secondly, I don’t think it’s very effective because the company knows that she has suffered anguish, real suffering. It doesn’t appear that this incident has helped her career. I think if anything it has caused her a great deal of mental anguish and emotional suffering. I don’t think an incident like this would be career beneficial and also just because she’s getting publicity from it doesn’t mean it’s publicity that she would want. She already was a public figure. It’s not as if this incident transformed her into some public figure. She didn’t need the publicity of this incident by any means.
EF: Is this strategy a common one, or was it a below-the-belt move?
It’s a strategy to argue that if a plaintiff suffered emotional harm and it went on for a long time, it’s not uncommon for a defendant to argue, you really became a public figure. You had new career opportunities because of this incident. And even if we were wrong in what we did, you didn’t suffer nearly as you allege. In fact, there are reasons to think you actually commercially benefited from what happened.
Again, Erin Andrews was already a public figure. There is no evidence that this incident helped her. It probably, based on her testimony, caused her tremendous emotional anguish. That’s not going to be good for anyone’s career.
EF: Did Marriott fail to fully account for the fact that the public can watch the trial online and essentially be their own jurors?
Marriott knew that this case would have been made public. This isn’t a surprise to the company. I think that should have played a role in its litigation strategy. The fact is that this case has tremendous public relations aspects to it. It’s not as if the hotel is without fault. Clearly it has some responsibility. Whether that responsibility is legal can be debated. Its not as if this is a faultless act for Marriott. Some of these strategies of trying to make Erin Andrews into some type of villain, I don’t think this will work with the jury, but it’s certainly not going to work with the millions of people following this case. Marriott is a company that relies on the public good. People when they are booking hotels can choose from a wide variety. The last thing this company wants to do is damage its goodwill with the public.
Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, I expect (and hope) that Marriott's leadership will be disavowing this strategy and apologizing to the public.
Time will tell.
Insiders, what do you think?
I've not followed it closely, but clearly sounds like a naive/formulaic response from the legal team rather than a well thought out strategy. I'm surprised it's a public trial instead of a quiet settlement, as from what I've read it sounds like there's enough evidence of culpability that they're certain to be held responsible for something. Certainly not wise to attempt such a strategy publicly and risk significant loss of revenue from future guests choosing to stay elsewhere.
I wonder if Marriott can sue their legal team for incompetence...?
Erin Andrews is suing for $75,000,000! Yes that's 75Million US Dollars! That's truly revolting.
In the face of such naked greed (pun absolutely intended) I'm not surprised the defence lawyers are using every tool in their box.
I'd never heard of the Z lister. Now the world has. The stalker made her better known across the USA, for all the wrong reasons and her dreadfully avaricious litigation has made her famous around the world and a poster girl for crazy shamelessly greedy American Plaintiffs.
Make no mistake, Marriott did Erin wrong. Very wrong. Thousands of $$$ wrong. Maybe $100,000. Plus loss of income. But her $75,000,000 lawsuit is a repugnant sum. Truly repugnant.
three comments but not meant at bob . First the defense argument that she benefitted is like telling a rape victim that she shouldn't have been wearing a short skirt. Second this may not be a Marriott owned hotel so it may not be Marriott defending but the company that owns the hotel if so Marriott may not have a say in the defense. Third as bob correctly says pre trial settlements usually happens when both sides can agree on a damages amount
I'd love to hear that jerryl is right.... [it may not be Marriott defending[,] but the company that owns the hotel; if so Marriott may not have a say in the defense]
We know that Hotels shown on Marriott.com may be operated under a license from Marriott International, Inc. or one of its affiliates.
Can anyone confirm (or deny) whether Marriott owns this property?
Hate to reply to my own post, but I just found this:
"West End Hotel Partners, which owns and operates that Nashville Marriott, has said that Barrett's criminal actions were his responsibility, not theirs."
That seems like a legitimate defense to me. The other stuff - that she benefited from being stalked and filmed naked: not so much.
If I were Marriott, I'd reviewing my agreement with West End Hotel Partners. ... See, for example, from a Marriott Franchise agreement: http://www.restorationstl.com/blackhawk/marriott/MarriottUFOC.pdf
19.1 Immediate Termination.
Franchisor may terminate this Agreement for any breach of this Agreement by giving Franchisee
notice of default and termination as set forth in this Section 19. ...
J. Franchisee ... has engaged in a pattern or practice of acts or conduct that is likely in Franchisor’s judgment to, as a result of the adverse publicity that has occurred in connection with such offense, acts, or conduct, adversely affect the Hotel, other Marriott Hotels, the System, the Proprietary Marks, the goodwill associated therewith or Franchisor’s interests therein, any Franchisor Lodging Facility or any other business conducted by Franchisor or any of its Affiliates;
19.3 Termination by Franchisor and Liquidated Damages.
A. Franchisee has agreed to operate the Hotel as a Marriott Hotel in compliance with this Agreement for the Term. If Franchisee should fail to do so, Franchisee acknowledges and agrees that Franchisor would be damaged in several ways, including loss of future Franchise Fees and Marketing Fund Fees and injury to the goodwill in the Proprietary Marks.
I hear you brightlybob, at least in part:
One thing to consider regarding U.S. litigation: seeking a sum in a law suit often has numerous elements. For example, frequently, the large (as you suggest, outrageous?) sums sought in U.S. tort litigation include requests for "punitive damages," which exist deter the defendant (or other similarly situated potential defendants) from engaging in similar conduct. [I think the legal term of art in the UK is exemplary damages.] As a result, one of the quirks of the legal system is that sometimes - albeit rarely - an individual who has been harmed may receive a windfall from the defendant because society is better off if everyone knows that type of behavior won't be tolerated in the future (or that the costs of that behavior are very high). For example, here's a summary about the high-profile McDonalds Hot Coffee case from a number of years ago: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm
Anyway, to be clear, I have no objection to Marriott challenging the amount. But, my only point - as you say - is that: "Make no mistake, Marriott did Erin wrong. Very wrong...."
Based on the brief reading I did on this, it appears the defense either led with or used this very early in their case, indicating a main focus of the defense rather than focusing on the limited culpability of the hotel. That should be the primary defense, with this point raised later in reference to the reasonableness of financial damages being demanded. If the hotel defense is leading with this, it is a very poor strategy. If the media is twisting this out of proportion and misrepresenting the defense claims, then shame on them (not that I expect anything better from them).
The hotel's culpability should be considered substantial and not limited. The desk allowed this pervert access to Erin Andrews and that is substantial! Normally, I have to show ID when I check in and if I lose my key I need to show it again. The amount of the lawsuit is obscene but the hotel should be forced to pay her a significant amount! For the record, I probably regard 75% - 90% of all torts to be without real merit, and few plaintiff's lawyers would ever want me on a juror. But except for the obscene amount that she is asking for I think she deserves significant compensation and the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University should pay. Their defense is an obscenity.
Agree the hotel has some culpability here. My point was that their defense should focus on what happened at the hotel, and how culpable they are for that, not whether she has since profited from the publicity.
I don't know all the facts, have more important things to do than watch videos online to get details of testimony, so I can't pass any judgement on the extent of any wrongdoing. Obviously the stalker is mostly to blame, but it seems the hotel should have done a better job at protecting her privacy. Hopefully the final judgement comes out fairly for all involved.
That's a tapestry of adjectives/descriptive words there Mr Bob. The rumor mill is suggesting that the sides couldn't come to a settlement agreement because the plaintiff wanted Marriott to agree that Marriott Reward Platinum members should be automatically upgraded to a suite (when available) and that MR Insiders should bring back hotel reviews.
Regardless of the facts, most people who are reading, or watching, the news are seeing the Marriott name, prominently plastered through the story. I'll bet that more people know that it was a Marriott, than know that the hotel is in Nashville. As a result, this has to be a major PR disaster for Marriott. The hotel can, eventually, change it's identity and become a Hilton, Sheraton, or some other brand.
People will give the new hotel a fresh start and that will be the end of the effects for the owners. Marriott, on the other hand, has no way to clean its name, except by addressing this event,
Might as well throw in my "three cents" (inflation - used to be "two cents")
I really don't think it's a sad day for Marriott - I also would be quite surprised if one penny of revenue was lost due to the adverse publicity.
Furthermore, very few get the entire "number" that is asked for and proven and punitive damages most probably will be born by the franchisee.
If the plaintiff can't prove negligence the court's award could very well be paid by an insurance company.
To sum up I believe the feeling in the hallways of 'downtown Marriott" is this incident is a "non-issue".
There are more important issues out there - take the extremely uncomfortable stay concluded this morning at an
RI where I spent two nights. It was in Anaheim, CA. The owners must have decided to save money they wouldn't subscribe to HD television stations. You remember how much fun it is to watch an analog show on an HD set. Everyone on the screen looking like they are being portrayed with images from funny mirrors.
Now this is an issue - it's not easy sliding back into the 20th Century when one thinks they are well into the second decade of the 21st.
And you thought it couldn't get worse.... The public relations disaster continues: Marriott rep allegedly played Erin Andrews hotel video for friends | SI.com
Sports Illustrated reports:
A Vanderbilt Marriott ownership representative who testified during Erin Andrews’s lawsuit against the hotel denied claims he played Andrews’s nude video for his friends at a Tuesday dinner, reports WSMV in Nashville.
Neal Peskind was accused of showing the video to friends at a Nashville restaurant on Tuesday. In a statement by Marriott’s defense, Peskind admits the video was shown at the dinner but not by him, and he asked his friends to stop playing the video, which shows Andrews changing in her hotel room.
A bartender from the restaurant told WSMV it was Peskind who showed his friends the video.
“He said it was costing him millions so he was going to show it to everyone. His friends were making fun of her and her body,” the bartender wrote on Twitter, according to WSMV. “We had to ask him to stop. It was disgusting and horrifying.”
Make it stop!!!!
Well ssindc good grief,(by the way when is grief ever good, but I digress) what an idiot for showing the video and what a dumb reason, “He said it was costing him millions so he was going to show it to everyone. Did I miss something??? Has the trial ended? Have the millions been awarded? No! He is still an idiot.
When I first heard the dollar amount Erin Andrews was asking I thought it seemed excessive but then I tried to put myself in her position. I’ve never been stalked, I’ve never been secretly filmed and the video put on the internet, I’ve never been humiliated in such a manner, I’ve never been afraid in a hotel. She has to live with all those things now. I saw her when she was talking about her future kids being teased about “Mommy being naked on the internet.” I feel very bad for her. What price does one put on personal security and safety? I don’t know.
There was a story on the Today show this morning about this very thing; asking for a room next to someone already in the hotel. The Marriott they showed said they couldn’t do that; I imagine with all the bad publicity anyone working for Marriott would be an imbecile to do so. They also showed a Hilton property and they did give the investigative reporter a room next to the person he asked about.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Erin Andrews in a sports capacity and I enjoy her a lot as a co-host on Dancing with the Stars; she has a great sense of humor.
It will be interesting to see how this all turns out; I wish her the best and I hope it doesn’t damage Marriott’s reputation too badly. I will remain a loyal Marriott fan.
Here's the Sports Illustrated coverage: Erin Andrews awarded $55 million in Marriott lawsuit | SI.com
"[T]he Nashville Marriott and West End Hotel Partners, the company that owns the hotel, are responsible for [ony] 49% [of that amount]."
Another report explained:
The $55 million judgment is punitive as a means of dissuading others from attempting similar actions or failing to prevent them from occurring. More than likely, Marriott will claim the judgement is excessive and seek to pay out a more reasonable amount once the jury is dismissed.
The defense tried but failed to convince the jury that Andrews had profited off her embarrassing experience in an attempt to have them view her as less of a victim. Instead, their argument fell on deaf ears as Andrews recounted that even her employer at the time, ESPN, demanded she do an on-camera interview to make it clear the video release was not a publicity stunt before they allowed her to return to work.
It has been addressed on here, that it is in fact a franchise, however I don't think that fact has been addressed very publicly. Anything I've seen in the press simply calls it the Marriott, and I'm surprised there has not been any word from the corporate office to distance themselves from the property in this case.
Here's some post-hoc analysis from the WSJ:
Among other things: "A judge in January dismissed Marriott International from the lawsuit, saying it had nothing to do with the actions of the franchise owner, West End Hotel Partners LLC, or the operator, Windsor Capital Group Inc."
"“Marriott comes off as the most prepared for this crisis. Its statement of the facts is direct and to the point, including most importantly, offering sympathy to the victim. However, a phrase explaining why as franchisor it doesn’t have any responsibility for security might have been helpful for reputation risk management purposes; it’s not too late for them to add this do the fact sheet."
"“The biggest loser in the long term is probably the Marriott brand. The company’s anonymous “facts about the case’ statement on the chain’s website explains the facts clearly enough, but by distancing the company from any responsibility it traded a short-term financial risk for [potential] long-term reputation damage. When consumers see the Marriott sign on a hotel they [may] be reminded that it is not a guarantee the company will accept responsibility. Marriott could have mitigated this with clearer statements about what it is doing to address the failings in leadership and oversight that led to this incident.”"
"[Marriot's] statement the company ‘is sympathetic to the ordeal’ came off as cold and clinical. It should have said what it would do to prevent a recurrence. It could have earned some goodwill by announcing its support of a prominent women’s rights/advocacy organization or cause."