After a stalker took authorized “peephole” footage in her Nashville hotel room, Erin Andrews filed a lawsuit in Nashville in 2011 against the the stalker and the hotel entities for invasion of privacy, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Here’s my post about the initial lawsuit, with a link to the Complaint.
For the past two weeks, Nashville has had the attention of sports and legal fans, as Andrews’ case was tried in front of a local jury. I was in the courtroom on Friday, to watch the lawyers make their closing arguments to the jury. It’s not often you get to see a fight over $75 million dollars.
Yesterday, the jury announced their verdict: A judgment of $55 million, with the stalker responsible for 51 percent of the blame, and the two hotel companies responsible for 49 percent (Note: Tennessee is a “comparative negligence” state). By my math, the hotel defendants are liable for about $27 million of the judgment.
After the judgment was announced, a number of media outlets analyzed the judgment. Some said that it may be appealed as excessive. Others focused on how much the lawyers are going to profit from it.
Sports Illustrated ran a story on her ability to actually collect the money. The article makes a good point about the stalker–that he’s in prison and probably “judgment proof.” That means that, even though he’s obligated to pay the money, his ability to earn money is diminished and he’ll be broke for the rest of his life.
The hotel defendants, however, are a different story. They appear to have strong cash flow, and they’ll probably look to their insurance carriers for some funds. Corporate bankruptcy may be an option, given the amount of the award. Most likely, the article concludes, the corporate defendants may appeal the amount of the award and, at the same time, work on a settlement agreement.
Here is my sales pitch: I will collect this Judgment. If you’ve read this blog or attended any of my collection seminars, you know the first thing I’d do: Record a Judgment Lien.
The hotel property at 2555 West End Avenue is in the heart of Nashville’s hottest district, and the property has a tax appraisal of $36,477.600. If the Judgment is recorded, then the defendants can’t refinance, sell, or do anything with the property without paying the judgment.
So, that’s that, right? Not so fast.
West End Hotel Partners, LLC doesn’t own the property; Vanderbilt is owner and West End Hotel Partners operates the hotel on the land pursant to to a 40 year ground lease. This means that Vanderbilt owns the property, but that the hotel has a long-term right to use the property, including construction of improvements. At the end of the lease, the hotel may revert to the ownership of Vanderbilt.
Regardless, a judgment lien attaches to whatever interest in the land a defendant holds, including this ground lease. The creditor may not get everything, but the lien would attach to enough to get their attention and complicate any future transactions related to the property.
Here, as always, record a judgment lien as the first step in collecting on a judgment.