We have previously posted regarding the Erin Andrews peephole trial on several occasions. We coverage of the trial here. We then covered the multi-million dollar verdict here. Here, we discussed it in the context of lawsuits not being worth the amount of money that the plaintiff requests in the complaint and we questioned whether Andrews would ever collect the alleged stalker’s, Mr. Barret’s, portion of the verdict:
In the Erin Andrews case, the “$75 million lawsuit” tag turned out to be misleading. The Plaintiff’s attorney did not ask the jury for a specific amount of money in closing, and the jury ultimately awarded $55 million. Of the $55 million, the hotel owner defendant was required to pay $26 million when its share of the verdict was reduced proportionate to its percentage of fault. The $28 million portion of the verdict that the jury assigned to the individual defendant (who is currently serving time in prison) might as well be forgotten, as that will never be collected. With the uncertainty of what will happen on appeal, and potentially applicable insurance policy limits that are well below the amount awarded, the case will likely settle for significantly less than the jury awarded.
As it turns out, Mr. Barret filed bankruptcy and asked the bankruptcy court to discharge his duties to make good on the Erin Andrews verdict. Reportedly, “Mr. Barrett’s bankruptcy allowed him to cancel a portion of the nearly $160,000 in debt he faced, but Ms. Andrews’s lawyers argued that federal law prevents him from getting out of paying damages owed for recording and posting a video showing her naked in her a hotel room.” Judge Trish Brown, Oregon bankruptcy judge, denied Barret’s request that the damages award obligation be discharged, concluding that the damages owed by Barret to Erin Andrews were non-dischargeable.
Despite the bankruptcy judge’s ruling, we still agree with former professor at this author’s alma mater and current legal analyst for Sport Illustrated, Michael McCann’s conclusion that Barret is likely judgment proof:
Andrews’s capacity to collect the $55 million in damages will soon come into focus. First consider that 51% of her damages—about $28 million—are assigned to the 54-year-old Barrett. It stands to reason that Barrett is what’s known in law as ‘judgment proof,’ meaning someone who is ordered by a court to pay damages but lacks the financial wherewithal to do so. Before his incarceration in 2010, Barrett was an insurance executive, which presumably paid him a good salary. But after his release in 2012, it’s not clear if he has been employed. It’s a safe bet to assume he hasn’t amassed anything near $28 million. In fact, in 2010, Barrett’s attorney, David Willingham, said Barrett had lost entire life savings. If Andrews receives any money from Barrett over the rest of their lives, it will likely be a very small amount.
This one illustrates one of the three major challenges that Plaintiff’s attorney’s face. Sometimes they have a great case on liability but no damages. Other times they have a great case on damages, but there is no liability. And other times, they have a great case on liability and damages, only to find out that the defendant is a turnip-turned-attempted-blood-donor.