The importance of duty of care in personal injury negligence lawsuits

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


Most people have heard about the recent blockbuster verdict in the Erin Andrews case. Andrews was awarded $55 million after jurors sided with her after a private and illegally obtained video of Andrews made its way around the internet. Since first being posted, the clips have been viewed some 16 million times.


Hotel hallway Charlotte Injury Lawyer Mecklenburg Accident AttorneyThough most people were aware of the massive, multimillion-dollar verdict, few understand how and why the damages were allocated. You might think the full amount was owed by Michael Barrett, the man who actually recorded the video and then distributed it online for others to watch. Though Barrett was a defendant in the case, he wasn’t the only one. The other defendant was the Nashville Marriott.


At this point it might be helpful to offer a few details about the incident. Back in 2008, Andrews was staying at the Nashville Marriott for work. While there, Michael Barrett, someone with an alarming interest in the ESPN sportscaster, was able to confirm with the Marriott that Andrews was staying at the hotel. Barrett then reserved an adjoining room and proceeded to alter the peephole in the door that linked their two rooms. By altering the peephole, Barrett was able to set up a camera to look into Andrews’ room, recording her private moments, including those as she got into or out of the shower.


After the video surfaced, Andrews filed suit against Barrett and the Marriott. Andrews argued Barrett was responsible for actually performing the illegal acts (for which he was eventually arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to jail). With regard to the Marriott, Andrews argued it was liable due to breaching the duty of care it owed to guests like Andrews.


In Tennessee, where the trial occurred, the law says that hotels (or any business) owes a duty of care to its guest. This duty of care requires the hotel to act reasonably and to do what it can to protect its guests from harm. The duty of care also included a duty to warn people or attempt to protect them from foreseeable harm from other guests.


In this case, Andrews argued that the Marriott had failed to do its duty in several ways. First, it failed in confirming to Barrett that Andrews was staying at the hotel. Second, it failed by allowing Barrett to book an adjoining room. Third, it failed in not warning Andrews that Barrett had booked an adjoining room. Finally, it failed in properly maintaining the peep holes to prevent the kind of tampering that allowed Barrett to surreptitiously record the video.


The jury was ultimately convinced by Andrews’ arguments and the Marriott was found to be partially responsible for the harm Andrews suffered. Of the $55 million in damages awarded to Andrews, Barrett was found to be 51% responsible. The Marriott was found to be 49% responsible. This means that, should Barrett be unable to pay his share (which is nearly assured), then Andrews will be able to turn to the Marriott, which will remain on the hook for its 49%.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.


About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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