How Much is Being Filmed Naked Worth? And Why?
Today’s big legal news is Erin Andrews’ damages award of $55,000,000.00 against her stalker, and against the Marriott Company.
How much is being recorded naked worth? The jury answered that question, and split the award almost 50%/50% between the intentional wrongdoer and the negligent wrongdoer.
1. The facts were egregious. A thoroughly despicable but nearly indigent stalker, and a very large, negligent, “deep pocket” company.
2. The jury decided that hitting Marriott with $25,000,000.00 would get its attention and properly reimburse Ms. Andrews.
3. The jury believed her that she was emotionally devastated by this. I trust the third party witnesses, such as her father, were credible and compelling.
4. The argument that her children and grandchildren will never be able to Google Erin Andrews without finding this story and those images was apparently compelling.
So, what do we say to those who worry about runaway jury awards?
I suggest we consider this: except for companies driven by someone like Don Blankenship, anxious to keep his $80,000,000.00 annual salary, the people who run these companies are not necessarily evil, but they are still going to be driven by the profit motive. There must be disincentives to ignoring the safety of the public.
Landmark cases save lives, property, and money. Here are some examples:
1. McDonalds keeping its coffee at a near boiling point in spite of 500 reported serious burns a year. That ended up costing McDonalds perhaps one day’s profits from its coffee sales; that’s all. See “punitive damages” below.
2. Manufacturers of three wheelers who knew their product was unstable and deadly and were eventually forced to stop making them.
3. Volkswagen and Chevrolet with the swing axel Beetle and Corvair that were virtual death traps. Try finding a swing axel in any car company’s line-up these days.
4. Honda three wheelers being built without the $55.00 guard that prevented the spinning back wheel from deboning the operator’s leg from the knee down, and after one big verdict, offering it as an extra cost option! It took another big verdict before Honda would make that guard standard.
5. Government officials switching to lower cost, poisonous, high lead, water, in Flint Michigan.
6. Tobacco Companies who hid the deadly statistics about their products for decades.
The common denominator to these cases are large entities, essentially immune, except when a jury of the injured persons’ peers can hear the evidence and mete out justice.
And, as in the famous WV Case, TXO, there are times when the wrong is so intentional, or close to being intentional, that damages can be assessed for the purpose of punishment. TXO knowingly tried to keep a WV landowner from claiming a clear record title to the oil and gas under their property. Damages were $19,000 in attorney fees, but my friend David Brumfield convinced the jury to award 500 times that number, or $10,000,000.00, in “punitive damages” against this two billions dollar company in order to discourage it and other companies from trying to ruin “the little guy”. Punitive means just that, punishment vs. damages that are “compensatory”. The damages include medical bills, property damages, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent impairment.
So, maybe you would accept $25,000,000.00 to be filmed in the buff, but Eren did not consent, and I suspect that the privacy of all of us will be greater, now that she sought, and got, a substantial award against the entities who allowed her privacy to be shattered. That’s our system of civil justice, and in many ways, it’s a darn good one, especially that right to a jury trial. Why do you think big companies slip mandatory arbitration into its credit card and consumer contracts? They do not want to have to pay you for their wrongdoing.
This post was written by Burton Hunter