Erin Andrews, the sportscaster who sued the hotel owner and operator who allowed her stalker to secretly record her while naked, has settled the lawsuit. The case was actually presented to a jury and jury awarded her $55 million in damages. The hotel owner and operator was required to pay $27 million while Andrews’ stalker was required to pay $28 million.
There is some speculation that the hotel offered a settlement to avoid the possibility of being responsible for more than $27 million. An issue was raised by Andrews’ attorneys, asking for joint and several liability. Joint and several liability means the hotel could be on the hook for the full $55 million if Andrews’ stalker does not pay his portion. From a practical standpoint, it is highly unlikely he, as an individual, would ever be able to pay the $28 million.
While this is a legitimate thought, there are other reasons that could have prompted settlement as well. It will never be known the exact reason for settlement because the settlement amount and discussions are confidential. Sometimes when a large award is given to the plaintiff by a jury, the defense appeals the verdict. The appeals process can take years and until the appeal is complete, the money is not paid out. Because a hold is placed on the award, it is not unusual for a settlement to be reached to avoid the additional time and expense associated with an appeal. For some plaintiffs, they are out of pocket so much in terms of medical and legal expenses that they cannot afford to wait out the appellate process.
Andrews is likely financially stable enough that the need for the award money was not the primary reason for the settlement. There is always a risk that the verdict could be overturned on appeal, so she may have decided she did not want to take the risk. If the verdict were overturned, she may have to go through the trial process again and she could receive no award or a smaller award.
It is common for settlements, especially with larger companies, to be confidential. The defendants in these cases do not like to broadcast the settlement amounts for fear of “copy cats” trying to take advantage of a situation. Unlike settlement, a jury verdict and award amount are matters of public record. With the settlement, Andrews’ days of addressing this issue should be coming to an end.