Invasion of privacy can be extremely traumatizing even for someone who spends much of their life in the spotlight. In the early months of 2016, two juries returned significant verdicts for two celebrities, Erin Andrews and Hulk Hogan, in high profile cases dealing with invasion of privacy.
The first case is that of 37-year old Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews. Andrews first worked at ESPN, starting in 2004. She later moved to Fox Sports in 2012, and in 2014 began covering professional football. She also co-hosts ABC’s popular ballroom dancing competition show Dancing With The Stars. The incident that spurred the lawsuit occurred in 2008 when Andrews was staying at a Marriott hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael David Barrett, who was an insurance executive from Illinois found out where Andrews was going to be and what room the sportscaster was staying in at the hotel. He found out her room number by using a house phone at the hotel that displayed room numbers and asking to be connected to her room. He then requested to be moved into the room next to Andrews.
He waited for Andrews to leave her room then rigged the peephole on her door so that he could later film her through it. When Barrett heard Andrews get out of the shower he recorded her through the peephole. Barrett then tried to sell the footage to TMZ. When he was unsuccessful, he uploaded the video to the internet. Andrews brought criminal charges against Barrett after learning about the video. He was convicted of interstate stalking and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Andrews also brought a civil lawsuit against Barrett and the Marriott where the incident occurred. Among the claims Andrews brought, were claims for invasion of privacy. She was awarded $55 million by the jury.
The second case involved former professional wrestler, Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea. Hogan brought a lawsuit for invasion of privacy against Gawker Media. In that case, Gawker posted a clip of Hogan which was recorded without Hogan’s knowledge and showed the wrestler having sex with the wife of a friend. The video was filmed years ago and sent to Gawker by an anonymous source in 2012. As part of an article about the “fascination with celebrity sex tapes,” Gawker posted a clip of Hogan’s tape. Hogan subsequently sued. Gawker contended that they had a First Amendment right to publish the video excerpt. Hogan’s attorney argued the video clip was not a newsworthy item. At the trial, the jury sided with Hogan, awarding him $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages. Gawker plans on appealing the verdict.
Even in a world where people share more and more of their daily lives on social media, blogs, and YouTube, most people still expect to maintain a certain level of privacy. While everyone may have different standards for how much they post online, most everyone has, at least, some aspects of their lives that they keep off limits and offline. When those aspects are taken without permission and posted for the world to see, legal liability may follow for the person responsible for invading their privacy.