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Erin Andrews continues her fight to get justice for compromising videos released by her stalker

After naked videos of Erin Andrews in her hotel room were released in 2008, she continues to endure through a lawsuit against her stalker and the hotels in which these videos were taken.

Photo by Mark Humphrey (AP Images).

Emotion filled the courtroom as Erin Andrews testified about the humiliation and fear she felt after a stalker posted a nude video of her online, back in 2008.  Michael David Barrett – the man who recorded Andrews in the privacy of her hotel room – pled guilty to felony interstate stalking and was sentenced in 2010 to 30 months in jail.

Erin Andrews, who worked as an ESPN reporter at the time, originally filed suit in 2010 against more than seven hotels in Nashville, Tennessee, and against [her stalker] himself. 

Erin Andrews, who worked as an ESPN reporter at the time, originally filed suit in 2010 against more than seven hotels in Nashville, Tennessee, and against Barrett himself.  Her first complaint alleged that the hotels acted negligently by confirming her room number to Barrett without her permission while she was in town covering a Vanderbilt University football game. The complaint alleged that these actions caused her “severe and permanent emotional distress.” Andrews sought more than $1.2 million from the hotels and Barrett.

In 2011, Andrews filed a second complaint for $10 million that alleged invasion of privacy against many of the same hotels named in her earlier complaint.  Andrews sought $6 million from the hotels for their negligence in allowing Barrett to know that Andrews was in the hotel, allowing him to book the room next to her, and for failing to discover that Barrett had altered the peephole of her hotel room, which allowed him to videotape her.  She also sought $ 4 million from Barrett himself.  Barrett posted as many as 10 videos of Andrews to the internet at multiple hotels.

According to prosecutors, this was not the first time [Andrews’ stalker] had victimized women.

According to prosecutors, this was not the first time Barrett had victimized women. Back in 2010 CBS News reported that the 48 year-old insurance executive videotaped as many as sixteen other women, including television personalities and female news reporters.  Further, evidence showed that Barrett had conducted at least thirty background checks on various women, which could produce information on birthdays and home addresses.

In Andrews’ case, Barrett admitted to modifying the peephole on her hotel room door with a hacksaw which allowed him to see clearly into her room.  He then listened for Andrews to get out of the shower, at which point he filmed her naked through the door with his cell phone.  When asked why he did it, Barrett said that he was in a financial bind and that he planned to sell to footage to the highest bidder.  When that plan failed, however, he decided to release the video online for free.  Barrett said he picked Andrews because she was popular and “trending on yahoo.”

Barrett pled guilty to felony interstate stalking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261A, which makes it a crime to cross state lines to stalk an individual.

[Andrews] now seeks $75 million from the owner and operator of the Nashville Marriott and her stalker . . . 

Andrews amended her complaint for a third time on October 13, 2015.  She now seeks $75 million from the owner and operator of the Nashville Marriott and her stalker, Michael Barrett, saying that she continues to suffer from “severe and permanent emotional distress” and “embarrassment.”

When she took the stand in a Tennessee courtroom on February 29, 2016, Andrews tearfully recounted how these traumatic events continue to affect her life, even as she tries to move forward as a broadcaster for Fox Sports and a co-host of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”  “This happens every day of my life, either I get a tweet or somebody makes a comment in the paper or somebody sends me a still of the video to my Twitter or someone screams it at me in the stands and I’m right back to this… I feel so embarrassed and I am so ashamed,” Andrews said.

The two main causes of action that Andrews is suing for is negligence and infliction of emotional distress. 

The two main causes of action that Andrews is suing for is negligence and infliction of emotional distress.  To prove negligence against the hotel, Andrews will have to show that the hotel in which she stayed: 1) had a duty to protect her privacy, 2) they breached that duty, 3) their breach was the proximate cause of Andrews’ injuries and 4) that Andrews’ did indeed suffer injuries arising from the hotel’s actions.  Andrews’ team of attorneys believes that if it had not been for the Nashville Marriott’s actions, Andrews never would have been a victim.  At trial this past week, Andrews took the stand and pointed to the Nashville Marriott as being responsible for the incident.

“This could have been stopped.  The Nashville Marriott could have just called me and said, ‘We’re putting this man that requested to be next to you, is this OK?’ And I would’ve called the cops and we would’ve gotten him.  I’m so angry.  I’m so mad,” Andrews said.

To prove intentional infliction of emotional distress against Barrett, Andrews will have to show that Barrett: 1) acted intentionally or recklessly, 2) that his conduct was extreme and outrageous, 3) that his conduct was the cause, 4) of severe emotional distress.  The severity of her emotional distress will be relevant in determining how much Andrews stands to recover on this claim.  To prove this part of her suit, Andrews recounted on the stand, how this incident has changed her life for the worse and how it has impacted not only her personally, but her relationships as well.  Andrews was recently “set up” with her co- host, Jarrett Stoll on “Dancing with The Stars” and she talked about how this incident has affected that relationship.

“I feel really guilty [Stoll] didn’t know me before this happened and to try to explain to someone who has questions about why I have trust issues, why I’m insecure, why I’m embarrassed; he doesn’t understand,” Andrews said.

Several of Andrews’ family members and friends took the stand.  Her mother and father both testified about how their daughter has changed after this experience and is now a “shell” of her former self.

Now that Andrews’ attorneys have rested their case, it will be up to the defense to determine just how much Andrews’ career has been impacted and whether she benefitted in any way from the videos being posted.

The defense highlighted endorsements ranging from Diet Mountain Dew to Reebok that Andrews has received since the video’s release and casted doubt as to whether this suit was really worth $75 million. 

During her cross examination Andrews admitted to defense attorneys that her income has “gone up substantially” since the release of the video in 2009.  The defense highlighted endorsements ranging from Diet Mountain Dew to Reebok that Andrews has received since the video’s release and casted doubt as to whether this suit was really worth $75 million.  The jury will have to decide the exact dollar amount to attach to Andrews’ claims and ultimately determine how much, if any, compensation she will receive.

There is no doubt that this case has made headlines across the country.  In Tennessee however, where the trial is ongoing, state legislators are considering a bill that could require heavier penalties for anyone convicted of unlawfully photographing another person for sexual gratification.  The new bill (HB 1779) would require that anyone convicted, would have to register as a sex offender.  Although this legislation did not stem from Andrews’ case, the bill would certainly impact other cases that are similar to hers.  Overall, the bill’s aim would be to enhance the punishment for someone who photographed or videotaped another person for sexual reasons.

The video of Andrews has been viewed nearly 18 million times to date and she continues to work through the issues that have surfaced since the video’s posting.  “I’ll always have to go get treatment for this.  I’ll always need to talk to somebody about this because this will always be on the internet.  This will always be there.  There will always be a reminder, every single day,” Andrews said.

Kendra Alleyne, Associate Editor
About Kendra Alleyne, Associate Editor (17 Articles)
Kendra Alleyne is a third year law student and serves as an Associate Editor for the Campbell Law Observer. She is from Lynchburg, Virginia and graduated from Liberty University for a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Over the summer following her first year of law school, Kendra worked as a legal internship at Colon & Associates, where she is currently still interning. Kendra also serves as the Public Relations Chair for Campbell University’s Black Law Student Association.
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