The Jury in the Erin Andrews peep hole video case against Michael Barrett and the Nashville Marriott reached an epic Verdict of $55 Million. Now we’ll have to see if the Verdict withstands possible appeal and how much Andrews can collect.
Challenging the Verdict
The defendants may choose to challenge the Verdict on appeal. There are two possible avenues in the appeal. First, the defendants could seek to have the whole verdict tossed and obtain a new trial by proving that the judge made errors in the case that made the trial unfair and warrant a new trial.
In the alternative, the defendants could see a remittitur, or reduction, of the verdict by the appellate court by arguing that the amount of the verdict “shocks the conscience.” Generally, jury verdicts are entitled to some degree of deference because the jury heard the evidence and is entitled to use its discretion in awarding compensation. However, if the verdict is so high as to shock the conscience of the appellate court, it can be reduced to a more “reasonable” figure.
Verdict Collection Issues
Even if the $55 Million Verdict is not challenged on appeal or stands after an appeal, Erin Andrews and her lawyers will face challenges collecting the whole verdict.
Tennessee, the state where the case was tried, apportions payment of the verdict based on percentages of responsibility. In the Erin Andrews case, Michael Barrett was found 51% responsible and the Nashville Marriott 49%. So, Erin has to try to collect 51% from Barrett and 49% from Marriott.
Any insurance coverage Barrett might have would certainly exclude coverage for his intentional and criminal actions. Accordingly, unless Barrett hits the Powerball, the portion of the verdict chargeable to him, about $28 Million, is almost certainly never going to be collected. (Remember when the Goldman Family got its $33.5 Million verdict against OJ Simpson arising out of Ronald Goldman’s murder? The Goldman family never collected…..)
With regard to the 49% allocated to Marriott, that $27 Million may be collectible. Although I keep saying Marriot, the actual entity that ran the hotel was a local franchise. It’s likely that the franchise owner has a big insurance policy, but probably not $27 Million. So, to collect on the entire amount the attorneys will have to locate assets to be sold to collect.
There is another possible scenario. In order for Andrews and her lawyers to avoid the delay and risk of an appeal reducing the verdict and in order for Marriot to avoid the risk of being saddled with such a huge verdict, the parties could agree to a Settlement whereby Marriott would agree to pay and Andrews would agree to accept some compromised amount.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens……
Attorney Fees, Costs and Taxes
Once the Verdict or Settlement is paid, Andrews will have to pay her lawyers their fees and costs and then pay the IRS and state tax authorities their cut.
It’s almost certain that Andrews’ attorneys are charging a Contingent Fee, which means that rather than Andrews paying them their hourly rates during the litigation, they will receive a percentage of the recovery, usually between one-third and forty percent, plus their litigation costs, from any monies that are collected. That figure seems huge now, but remember the fee was Contingent on winning and this is a case that could have been lost. Also, understand that Andrews’ lawyers invested thousands of hours into the litigation which would have cost her millions in fees if she had paid them by the hour.
Tim Rayne is a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer practicing in West Chester and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. For over 20 years, Tim has been helping injured victims of accidents receive fair treatment from insurance companies. Contact Tim at 610 840 0124 or [email protected]