Erin Andrews, a Fox News and ABC sports reporter, was emotionally damaged the day she discovered a nude video of herself on the internet. Her stalker, Michael Barrett, learned that Andrews was staying in a Marriott hotel in Nashville and arranged a stay for himself in the room next door to hers. Barrett drilled a few peepholes between the two rooms and began filming Andrews as she was undressing herself. To make things worse, Barrett published the video on the internet for everyone to see; an expert witness, at the trial between Andrews and Barrett, testified that the video was viewed an estimated 17 million times.
During her teary testimony, Andrews explained to the court that upon discovering the video online, she began screaming and yelling, over the phone to her father, as if she had been in a car accident. She began to realize that the nude video of her was on the internet for anyone to see and simply broke her. Andrews’ father testified to her more recent behavior and explained that she had been changed; his trusting and loving daughter turned bitter and removed.
At trial, against defendants Barrett and the Marriott Hotel, the Nashville jury awarded Andrews $55 million in damages. Unfortunately, the jury determined Barrett to be 51% at fault while the hotel would only be 49% at fault, splitting the damages between the two defendant $28 and $26 million, respectively. Andrews will only be able to collect the respective damages from each defendant; and because the hotel is the defendant with the actual assets and not Barrett, the likelihood that Andrews will be able to recover the $28 million from Barrett is slim.
New York Civil Practice § 1601, entitled “Limited Liability of Persons Jointly Liable,” is a similar law that directly relates to the type of judgment awarded at the Andrews trial. According to this rule, a defendant is responsible only for its actual share of non-economic damages if its degree of culpability is found to be less than 50%. If a defendant is found to be over 50% liable, the plaintiff may seek a judgment against the defendant, which would then require that defendant to seek reimbursement from other co-defendants. Seeing as how Andrews suffered emotional distress (a non-economic loss), she is limited to recovering only the percentage of damages determined by the jury.