An Ohio man filed a $1.5 million lawsuit Tuesday against the Knoxville Marriott hotel after finding a hidden camera in a bathroom light fixture in July.
Bryan Brewer discovered the small video camera after noticing a tiny black spot - which he thought was an insect but turned out to be a hole - in the fixture, according to the lawsuit.
At the time Brewer, the vice president of a California company, was staying at the Marriott while on business.
His attorney, K.O. Herston, filed the lawsuit in Knox County Circuit Court. Named as defendants are Marriott International Inc. and Columbia Sussex Corp., a Fort Mitchell, Ky., corporation that operated at least 28 Marriotts with more than 8,500 rooms.
“The allegations have been turned over to the proper authorities, who we are cooperating with fully,” said Doug Allen, the general manager of the downtown Marriott.
Allen declined to comment any further, citing an ongoing investigation by the Knox County Sheriff`s Department. Brewer, contacted Tuesday, declined comment.
According to the lawsuit, Brewer, 27, discovered the camera on the morning of July 11.
“Thinking it might be an insect, Mr. Brewer swatted at the black spot, thereby inadvertently breaking the plastic cover on the light fixture,” Herston wrote in the lawsuit. “He called the front desk, apologized and offered to pay for the fixture.”
But while he was waiting for someone to fix the damage, Brewer noticed wires and discovered a small video camera.
A further look by security personnel confirmed that it was an elaborate, self-contained, video recording system.
“The video camera was connected to the bathroom light switch such that the camera would begin recording when the bathroom light was turned on and would stop recording when (it) was turned off,” the lawsuit states.
Herston said that the equipment had a film of dust on it indicating that it had been there for some time. It also had a piece of tape on it indicating the room number, Room 253.
Herston said that Marriott employees let Brewer view the tape in their presence but refused to give it to him.
The tape and video equipment have been turned over to the Sheriff`s Department.
The Sheriff`s Department also has refused to give him the tape, Herston said.
He also said he`s not sure why the Sheriff`s Department is investigating the case since the Knoxville Police Department is next door to the Marriott.
Herston said the detective handling the case told him, “`All I know is that I was called to the scene and I responded to the call.`”
Marriott officials said they have inspected other rooms at the hotel but have refused to say what, if anything, was found, Herston said.
“There are a lot of questions and we need some answers,” Herston said before adding, “How many other people were taped?”
Martha Dooley, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff`s Department, said the reason the tape isn`t being turned over is because, “It is an ongoing investigation.”
As for the office handling the case, Dooley said, “We routinely answer calls from businesses and residences in the city as well as the county.”
Someone from the hotel apparently called the Sheriff`s Department directly.
KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk said that KPD did not receive a call from the hotel.
The lawsuit contends that Brewer has suffered harm as a result of the discovery.
“In Mr. Brewer`s case, he has become paranoid,” Herston indicated. “He hates to travel now and that has caused tension at work since his job requires so much travel. When he does travel, he spends a lot of time going over every inch of his hotel room to make sure it is safe.
“This has really affected his career and well-being.”
In addition to the $1.5 million in damages, Brewer also seeks the return of all copies of the videotaped recording of him.
Brewer has not been back in Knoxville since the incident.
“If he comes back, he certainly won`t stay at the Marriott,” Herston said.