AnsweredAssumed Answered

Sad Day for Marriott (By Association):  Does Reputation Matter More Than Winning/Money?

Question asked by ssindc on Mar 2, 2016
Latest reply on Mar 14, 2016 by ssindc

As you may know, Marriott's attorneys made a stunning decision in court this week.  Their attorneys have generated a media and public relations storm of criticism and ill will.  It's remarkable that Marriott permitted this to happen.   As Sports Illustrated explained:


The trial in Erin Andrews’s lawsuit against the Nashville Marriott continued Tuesday. Andrews, currently a sideline reporter with Fox Sports and host of Dancing with the Stars, is suing the hotel for allowing a stalker to book the room next to hers and surreptitiously film nude videos of her in 2008 while she worked for ESPN. The stalker, Michael David Barrett, posted the videos online and plead guilty to stalking charges, for which he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. ...

On Tuesday, Marriott’s defense argued that Andrews benefited professionally from the release of the video....


What were they thinking?  Even if they win the lawsuit, my gut says this is going to cost them more than a handful of customers....


["You’d be hard-pressed to find a defense more disgusting than the one the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University used against Erin Andrews. ... On Tuesday, the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University’s defense went so far as to say the violation of Andrews’ privacy was good for her career."]


EF: What do you think of Marriott’s legal strategy in pointing out how Andrews has profited from the publicity of the incident?

Michael McCann:

If this case involved a typical person, I would understand that strategy better because what Marriott is trying to show is that her damages should not be considered that high. The company is arguing that she has benefited in some way from this publicity. That strikes me as a regrettable strategy. For one, this case is being televised, and it seems at a minimum grossly insensitive, not only to the jurors but to the millions that are following this case.  And secondly, I don’t think it’s very effective because the company knows that she has suffered anguish, real suffering. It doesn’t appear that this incident has helped her career. I think if anything it has caused her a great deal of mental anguish and emotional suffering. I don’t think an incident like this would be career beneficial and also just because she’s getting publicity from it doesn’t mean it’s publicity that she would want. She already was a public figure. It’s not as if this incident transformed her into some public figure. She didn’t need the publicity of this incident by any means.

EF: Is this strategy a common one, or was it a below-the-belt move?


It’s a strategy to argue that if a plaintiff suffered emotional harm and it went on for a long time, it’s not uncommon for a defendant to argue, you really became a public figure. You had new career opportunities because of this incident. And even if we were wrong in what we did, you didn’t suffer nearly as you allege. In fact, there are reasons to think you actually commercially benefited from what happened.

Again, Erin Andrews was already a public figure. There is no evidence that this incident helped her. It probably, based on her testimony, caused her tremendous emotional anguish. That’s not going to be good for anyone’s career.

EF: Did Marriott fail to fully account for the fact that the public can watch the trial online and essentially be their own jurors?


Marriott knew that this case would have been made public. This isn’t a surprise to the company. I think that should have played a role in its litigation strategy. The fact is that this case has tremendous public relations aspects to it. It’s not as if the hotel is without fault. Clearly it has some responsibility. Whether that responsibility is legal can be debated. Its not as if this is a faultless act for Marriott. Some of these strategies of trying to make Erin Andrews into some type of villain, I don’t think this will work with the jury, but it’s certainly not going to work with the millions of people following this case. Marriott is a company that relies on the public good. People when they are booking hotels can choose from a wide variety. The last thing this company wants to do is damage its goodwill with the public.


Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, I expect (and hope) that Marriott's leadership will be disavowing this strategy and apologizing to the public.


Time will tell.


Insiders, what do you think?