May 28, 2022

Marriott GC on Erin Andrews’ Case: ‘We have to live with that’

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Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews walks to the courtroom with attorneys Bruce Broillet, left, and Scott Carr, center, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Andrews' $75 million lawsuit against the franchise owner and manager of a luxury hotel and a man who admitted to making secret nude recordings of her in 2008 is to be turned over to the jury Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews walks to the courtroom with attorneys Bruce Broillet, left, and Scott Carr, center, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Andrews’ $75 million lawsuit against the franchise owner and manager of a luxury hotel and a man who admitted to making secret nude recordings of her in 2008 is to be turned over to the jury Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

By Amanda Bronstad, From The National Law Journal

During the two-week peephole video trial that culminated on Monday with a $55 million verdict for sportscaster Erin Andrews, Marriott International Inc.—dismissed from the case in January—struggled to distance itself from blame.

Part of the challenge for franchisor Marriott International was a defense strategy at trial by the franchisee hotel that argued Andrews’ career flourished after the video incident. Also a challenge was a franchise representative who reportedly watched the video of Andrews, now with Fox Sports, on his cellphone while at a restaurant with friends. Those incidents were a social-media gut-punch to Marriott International during the trial.

The verdict, which found the Marriott franchise hotel 49 percent liable and defendant Michael David Barrett 51 percent at fault, stemmed from a trial that started on Feb. 22. Andrews sued after Barrett recorded a nude video of her through a peephole to her room at the Nashville Marriott in 2008.

Edward Ryan, executive vice president and general counsel of Marriott International, Inc.ÊHANDOUT.

Edward Ryan, executive vice president and general counsel of Marriott International, Inc.ÊHANDOUT.

On Monday, before the verdict came in, The National Law Journal spoke to Marriott International general counsel Edward Ryan about the trial and how his company was managing the situation. After the verdict, the NLJ contacted the company for a response from Ryan. The company provided a statement, part of which appears at the bottom. This article has been edited for length and clarity.

The National Law Journal: What concerns you about the Erin Andrews trial from the perspective of a general counsel?

Edward Ryan: The troubling part has been in terms of how it’s been understood by the public. I saw Marriott as the name being listed as the defendant. I saw Marriott employees being scourged as having allegedly watched a video very inappropriately. That’s not true. No Marriott employee ever did that, and there was no testimony that a Marriott employee did that, and we’re not a defendant in the case.

Are there any lessons learned for you, as the head of a major law department, flowing from the Andrews case?

Every company is learning in terms of the power of social media and how things get spun really quickly on social media and how to address that appropriately. Every company on the globe is learning this, one way or the other. How you protect your brand, you’ve got to be really diligent 24/7 on it, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Why didn’t this case settle before trial?

I cannot make a comment.

What does a verdict against the franchisee defendants mean for Marriott?

Legally, since we’re not in this trial, there’s no judgment against us. It’s not applicable to us at all. From a consumer standpoint, that’s where we’re trying to make sure the record is correct. It’s absolutely correct it happened at a Marriott hotel, and we have to live with that. There’s a conclusion that Marriott did something wrong here. We didn’t do anything ourselves bad here.

One of the arguments that the remaining defendants made was that Erin Andrews’ career benefited from the leaked video. If you were still defending the case, would you make that argument?

I’m not going to discuss what I should have done.

Has Marriott taken any legal or business steps to undo its business relationship with Nashville Marriott?

No. They’re a franchisee, and franchises often have legal issues on all sorts of different matters.

Since the Andrews incident, has Marriott taken steps in any way to change the way it vets its potential franchisee owners?

We routinely vet franchisees: How good are they as business people, how well do they run hotels?

Is Marriott considering any changes to its requirements of franchises, like having better security or women-only floors or in how they handle celebrity clients?

We have clients of all different types—diplomatic and so on. Hotels individually have different processes for their security and special security when they have guests who might attract paparazzi and that sort of thing. That’s at a local level, as opposed to a national level. If you’re operating a hotel, you’re probably really close to the situation and probably know the best way to handle it.

Do you see any future litigation between Marriott and the other defendants over this?

We’ll see what happens posttrial. I’m not going to discount a possibility of anything at this point, but there’s no foreseeable action against a franchisee.

Marriott International’s response to Monday’s verdict:

Marriott International has always agreed that what happened to Ms. Andrews was terrible and we have remained sympathetic to the ordeal Ms. Andrews went through because of Michael David Barrett’s criminal conduct. However, there has been much confusion in the media and public conversations about Marriott International’s role in this case. This trial was between Ms. Andrews; Windsor Capital Group, Inc.; West End Hotel Partners, LLC; and Michael David Barrett.

IMAGE: Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews walks to the courtroom with attorneys Bruce Broillet, left, and Scott Carr, center, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Edward Ryan.

For more on this story go to: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202751562038/Marriott-GC-on-Erin-Andrews-Case-We-Have-to-Live-With-That#ixzz42PUed27A

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