Thursday, August 20, 2009

Update: Marriott's Statement on Rape Case

The Jane Doe v. Stamford Marriott story and case has struck nerves on all side. A story in The Stamford Advocate posted on Friday, August 14, reported that the Stamford Marriott in Connecticut blamed a rape victim for her 2006 rape in its parking garage. The blogosphere erupted in seething disapproval, many calling for a boycott of the hotel chain.

On my first post at BlogHer on this tragedy in which a "special defense" filed by attorneys representing the Marriott, a few comments are starting to roll in on the tail end of debate that I suspect come from misogynistic trolls. On the updated post discussing Marriott's withdrawal of the offensive special defense, a post which has less than 25 percent of the hits on the first story, a commenter dropped an update that's worthy of examination.

Josh Kirshner posted to comments Marriott's official statement, which it released Tuesday, August 18, and a link to the case's court detail. Read Josh's comment, for which I am grateful, here.

From Marriott's website, an excerpt from its official statement on this story and the withdawal of the "special defense":
It was a mistake to suggest that the victim of this tragic incident was responsible for the vicious crime against her. As soon as we learned that this offensive language was included by the insurance company’s defense lawyers in their response to Ms. Doe’s civil suit, we asked that it be withdrawn and it was on Monday, August 17.

This incident is not reflective of our corporate culture or ethical standards, and we apologize to all of our guests and customers who were so deeply offended by the words used in the legal pleading. (Marriott International)
My Response to Josh's Update with Screenshot of Court Detail

Thank you, Josh. Your comments are a testament to the benefits of crowd-sourced journalism. :-) I checked Marriott's website for its statement and someone posted it at 8:00 Tuesday night.

I'm willing to give Marriott the benefit of the doubt and cut it some slack because its offical statement admits the the language of the special defense" was a "mistake." However, the request does not appear in the court detail, which you brought to our attention (thank you), and the court detail does not support Marriott's (its attorney's) contention. *Special note here: Such a request would not appear in the court detail if Marriott made the request to an individual attorney.*

Still, unless the Connecticut Courts website has a typo (which is quite possible), Marriott did not request a revision to its special defense. Jane Doe, the plaintiff and victim, requested a revision. The CT Courts have it as filed by "P."

It seems to me that if the plaintiff had made this request it would be an objection and not a request, but I'm not a lawyer. I wish there was an attorney licensed in CT who could tell us if the plaintiff could make such a request, perhaps due to the offensive langauge, but as I said, it could be a big fat typo by the courts. I'd call and ask if it's a typo, but who has the time to wait for a state government office to give a straight answer about a potential human error?

If Marriott's insurance company filed the request for revision, however, it should take the time to get the "P" changed to a "D" on the state's public website, especially if Marriott's telling the truth and the insurance company screwed everything up.

Here's a screenshot so you can see what I mean, and if you click the image you can see the larger screenshot.

Thanks again for following up on this. As you may guess, there will be people who refuse to give Marriott any benefit of the doubt just as there are people who insist on bashing Jane Doe for filing the suit at all. As I've said in comments on the first post, it's too bad the insurance company can't take public heat on this. If Marriott made the request weeks ago, why did it take the insurance company so long to file the revision?

My Reservations

I'm being more generous than my life experience tells me to be, Josh, as I try to see Marriott's side. Having worked in PR before and considering that the company's official statements do not mention a "two weeks after" request for division, I lean toward believing something's fishy because the reporter at The Advocate doesn't have a direct quote from anyone saying Marriott made a request "weeks ago" as stated in the lead. All Marriott's ever said was it made the request "recently." Here's what the Stamford Marriott's attorney said as quoted by Monica Potts at The Advocate:

"From its inception, the legal case involving this tragic incident has been handled by the insurance company and its lawyers under the terms of the hotel's insurance policy, as is customary where an insurance company bears the risk of loss," said Stamford attorney Marc Kurzman in a statement from the hotel. "Interestingly enough, when we recently learned of this defense we requested that it be withdrawn." (source)

It would seem a request made two weeks after the special defense, which as you pointed out would be a full month before The Advocate's story, would not be characterized as "recently" by a company that hopes to get out of hot water.

Public Relations professionals have a standard of ethics and if they follow those ethics they cannot willingly lie, which could explain why Marriott's official statement doesn't say "weeks ago." Could be recently was Friday, August 14, when the story blew up the web.

But I'll still give them benefit of the doubt because it's possible the request was made verbally and somebody dropped the ball.

PS: Interesting and perhaps to its credit, neither of Marriott's official statements mention an insurance company, not the first, which said it couldn't discuss the litigation, nor the second, which declares a withdrawal of the offensive defense. Only its attorney, Kurzman, says the insurance company filed the "special defense."

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer CE & you can find her other stuff through Her 411.

1 comment:

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Nordette,

It's good that Marriott has denounced the actions of the insurance company but what took so long?

No woman should be made to think or feel that rape was her fault. Rape is a violent crime and it's all about the rapist; not the victim. Taking the position that the woman was somehow at fault, is like having her re-experience the rape again.

That's wrong on so many levels.

U