Erin Andrews Sues Marriott and Radisson Hotels Over Peeping Tom Videos

ESPN star Erin Andrews has filed an interesting torts lawsuit against various hotel chains after a man was able to videotape her in her hotel room. Michael David Barrett was sentenced to 30 months after pleading guilty in a harassment case in federal court in Los Angeles. Now Andrews is claiming negligence against these hotels for their lack of privacy and security.

The videos were shot in Nashville and Milwaukee in 2008. The videos were released on the Internet and went viral.

What is astonishing is that Barrett was able to get the hotel staff to reveal Andrews’ hotel room number and was booked into an adjoining room. He was then able to rig the peephole to allow him to videotape her while she was undressed.

The lawsuit names Barrett and several hotels, including Marriott International Inc. and Radisson Hotels International Inc. The lawsuit has, in my opinion, merit. While criminal acts often cut off proximate causation, there are exceptions when the conduct is foreseeable — as here with a celebrity. This could result in a significant new precedent for hotels — much like the case of Kline v. 500 Massachusetts Avenue for renters. In Kline a landlord was found liable for not taking precautions to protect tenants from crime in an apartment building in Washington. The hotels in this case should have settled before the actual filing. This is not the type of case a respected hotel wants to litigate.

Source: LA Times

21 thoughts on “Erin Andrews Sues Marriott and Radisson Hotels Over Peeping Tom Videos

  1. In addition to bad PR, the hotels also risk setting bad precedent if this case goes to trial. It makes no sense why they didn’t settle unless her demands were truly exhorbitant.

  2. It’s an interesting approach to liability. The case will raise the interesting issue as to whether or not a celebrity is entitled to greater expectations of privacy than the ordinary guest. It will also test whether a patron has any expectation of privacy in his room accommodations. Typically, hotels will not give out guest information. The precise question is whether they have a duty to maintain this as confidential, and if celebrity status matters in the calculus. Their own privacy policy may come back to haunt them on the issue of notice and foreseeability.

    Another interesting issue is whether the criminality was foreseeable based on surrounding facts, or if, as is usual, the criminal conduct cuts off the causation. Section 344 of the Second Restatement of Torts, if adopted in her jurisdiction, will afford a recovery if she can establish the acts were “likely.” Not an easy showing in a hotel context unless we’re talking about a room theft of goods, but maybe “theft” of privacy can be analogized.

    Like JT, I think it will be settled but less because of the merits of the case and more because of the status of the plaintiff as celebrity. Sadly it’s a two track justice system for celebrities versus regular folks – and we have no one to blame but ourselves for that.

  3. mespo,

    I concur in re foreseeable. That’s a tough row to hoe unless the hotels are in the routine practice of filming guests in their room as Barrett’s actions beyond obtaining the adjoining room are easily characterized as supervening criminality.

  4. I don’t think the issue is “celebrity” per se; the issue is whether a hotel is selling “privacy.” I think they are; but hotels would cost a fortune to build (or retrofit) to keep somebody from drilling a pinhole through walls; even a metal sheathing can’t stop that. Perhaps Kevlar could, I don’t know.

    Barrett could presumably accomplish this after watching Andrews leave for the day, thus knowing her room was empty (and using a vacuum cleaner to suck drilling detritus back through the hole).

    As a (rich) celebrity, Andrews had at least some fairly reasonable preventive recourse: demand three rooms in a row and reside in the center, or rent a room in the corner of the building along with the one beside it.

  5. As another example, there are these dressing-room and bathroom vids on the net that are not exploiting any celebrity at all, the perpetrators just install spy cams in things that look like smoke detectors or light fixtures. I think that, just like a hotel, a dressing room creates an expectation of privacy for celebrities and non-celebrity shoppers alike, and if they found themselves on such a video they should be able to sue the store.

    The only factor being a “celebrity” has, for Erin Andrews, is that it is *because* she is famous that the video went viral, and that in turn created far greater damages than if seen by just a few dozen people. I don’t think it is fair to hold it against her for being a celebrity, being beautiful or acting on TV does not give the public some automatic license to see her naked without her knowledge or permission.

  6. I agree generally with mespo, but I believe that the critical causation link is the hotels’ apparent disclosure of the plaintiff’s room number. There are a myriad of security reasons for declining to disclose that information. Certainly angry husbands have been known to track down their estranged wives for the purpose of physically harming them. And when that information is sought by a complete stranger, the possibility that one is dealing with a potential stalker comes immediately to mind, particularly when the guest is a celebrity. Since a hotel employee would not know the reason for the inquiry other than what he or she has been told, a guest should at least be able to expect a telephone call to determine whether the information can be given. Based upon the few facts we know about this case, I’d prefer to be plaintiff’s counsel.

  7. Mike A.

    I agree. Some hotels are cautious about giving out a guest’s room number–as they should be. Several years ago, I was staying at a Hampton Inn in Maine while I was attending a three-day conference. My husband came up to stay with me one night. The hotel staff refused to give him my room number until they had called and checked with me to see if was okay to give him the information.

  8. On a similar note, my mother made hotel reservations for 4 rooms for various members of the family to attend an event. As she arrived first, and was paying, she checked in for all four giving the front desk the list of people who would be arriving. She then took a shower. The hotel wouldn’t tell us which rooms we were in or which room she was in, and she wasn’t answering the phone. We had to keep trying until she was able to answer the phone, and tell us herself which room she was in.

  9. If the reports are true – that this guy was able to repeatedly use social engineering* to both get her room number and book an adjacent room, then it seems that the hotel chains seriously messed up. There may be legal technicalities that excuse the hotels from liability, but it sounds like they really, really messed up and should be held responsible.

    (* I’m using the term “social engineering” in the computer security sense here. It’s much easier to break into a computer system by tricking Ted in sales into telling you his password (“Hi, Ted? This is Jim in IT, we’re switching over to new security software, and I just need you to confirm your login and password….”) than it is to use “technical” means to “crack” a system.)

  10. I agree with Mike Appleton and Elaine M. I don’t think the issue is celebrity or voyeurism. Women get stalked and harassed by estranged partners all the time. There are a million reasons why a hotel should never give out a room number.

  11. if they do make her celebrity status the issue would it be necessary to codify what is or is not a celebrity?

  12. Good question, Pete. The defendant would surely raise this question, but it could backfire on them BIG-time, and I’ll give you an example of just how. In order to determine the correct amount of damages, it must be determined how this incident negatively impacted the plaintiff. If I were her lawyer, I would pursue the following line of argument.

    Andy Rooney once commented that female reporters had no place on the field. This comment is a reminder that some people can’t appreciate a woman’s ability to tackle a job dominated by men.

    Says Melissa Stark, who has reported on figure skating for ABC, football, major league baseball, the NBA, and golf, “There will always be men out there who will be uncomfortable listening to sports reported by women… As a woman in sports, you’re constantly trying to prove yourself because you’re put under the microscope more so than men.”

    Thus, the damage to Erin Andrews in terms of the viral impact of the video is twofold. First, as someone in the public eye (no need to say “celebrity” here), her credibility as a reporter is at stake. More specifically, though, Erin is in a profession that is notable for women’s struggles to break through the glass ceiling in a profession dominated by men.

    Given that many male viewers may still not take a female sports reporter seriously (e.g., cracking obscene jokes to their buddies while watching her on TV), any damage to her that relates specifically to the fact that she’s a woman (e.g., tawdriness, nudity) is doubly harmful.

  13. @Pete:

    We do not have to codify who is or is not a “celebrity,” like the “public figure” of libel law the definition is purposely fuzzy. The question would be up to the judge, jury, or both, whether Andrews meets the English language definition of “celebrity,” which she may or may not. I don’t watch ESPN so I have never heard of her. But then again, were I on a jury, I would take a pretty low threshold of what constitutes “celebrity,” certainly anybody we can reasonably expect to be recognized by more than a few thousand people that THEY do not know would have to be considered a “celebrity” by the definition.

    Erin Andrews certainly meets this definition, it is possible her ability be a credible sports reporter in a male-dominated industry with a predominately male audience has been permanently impaired. Sports reporting demands expertise, knowledge, and insight into the rules of the game and how it is played, as well as the management of players and teams.

    This illicit video of Andrews encourages male viewers to discount any expertise she may have or may develop and sexually objectify her. They may assume her commentary is scripted or coached and that she is just a pretty actress hired to deliver the words. Some may think that already, but the question before us is whether this video exacerbates that effect. To the extent that it does, this sexual objectification causes damage to her career and future prospects. Whether Erin is perceived by her audience as an actual sports expert or just a pretty face is analogous to the difference between being a player on the court or being a cheerleader on the sidelines.

  14. Beth,

    What is your suggestion for people like me who don’t take any sports reporters seriously regardless of gender?

  15. Hey, Buddha is Laughing (this buddha over here is laughing, too): I don’t take any sports reporters seriously, regardless of gender, but the fact remains that this woman has a plumb job in an arena of life that many people take seriously. That said, I’m now in love with the Chicago Blackhawks. (How could I not?)

  16. Интернет-Сайт без предоплаты!!!

    В условиях экономического спада становится актуальным приобретение или создание WEB-сайта.
    Созданный сайт поможет Вам привлечь больше клиентов и организовать рекламу своих продуктов или услуг.
    Услуга – «Сайт без предоплаты» – это Ваш выбор!!!
    Воспользовавшись нашей услугой, Вы абсолютно ничем не рискуете и на выходе получите:

    Через один день готовый сайт фирмы (7-10 страниц) от 4000 руб. (в стоимость входит оплата доменного имени, оплата хостинга на 12 месяцев и подбор шаблона сайта 2-3 варианта);
    Через один день Вы сможете начать рекламировать Ваш товар или услуги и получать с него прибыль;
    Через один день готовый сайт интернет-магазина (без наполнения товаром) от 7000 руб.
    Персональную электронную почту для Вашего сайта.
    Оплата за сайт происходит после его изготовления через платежные терминалы.
    Услуги по продвижению и раскрутки сайта оговариваются отдельно.

    Подробная информация на нашем сайте и

    Предварительные заявки и техническое задание на создание сайтов и интернет-магазинов можно направлять на email:,
    по телефонам 8 (499) 681-01-05, 8 (985) 298-60-52
    или по Skype – newteno1

Comments are closed.