A couple owes a wedding photographer $1.08 million after losing a defamation law suit to the woman.
The lawsuit began in March 2015 when photographer Andrea Polito alleged in a civil suit that Andrew and Neely Moldovan set out to ruin her business, Andrea Polito Photography, after an issue with their wedding photos, reports the Dallas News.
The couple hired Polito to photograph their wedding in October 2014. In the weeks after the wedding, Neely sent emails to Polito’s business, asking when her wedding photos would be ready.
The couple was told that they would receive their pictures after the album was ready, and that the album wouldn’t be available until the couple submitted an order form, selected a cover photo for the album, and paid the $125 fee for the cover.
After emailing back and forth over the course of several weeks, Polito offered to waive that fee for the bride and groom. Two days after sending the email to let the couple know, Polito found out that Andrew and Neely went to local media, claiming that the photographer was “holding their photos hostage.”
Polito said the Moldovans ruined her 13-year-old business overnight.
“People knew me and my reputation. I’ve shot several of the Dallas elites. All the name calling, all the bullying … I was humiliated.”
The lawsuit alleged that the couple also went to review sites and blogs to make “disparaging and defamatory” remarks about the business, claiming that Polito “cheated” and “scammed” her customers.
The bride and groom also went onto the website Yelp and “liked” several negative comments about Polito’s business, which were posted by other people. Yelp has removed a number of one-star reviews of the photography business since the news story broke.
The Moldovans said that many of the online profiles were created from other people pretending to be them, but Polito’s attorney, Dave Wishnew, claimed this was untrue.
When the local media aired the Moldovans’ story in January 2015, it was right at the beginning of what was usually Polito’s booking season.
The photographer claimed that while she usually books 75 to 100 clients during the year, she only booked two. She said her “business was destroyed,” so she left the studio she had occupied for 10 years.
On Friday, the Moldovans were found to be liable for $1.08 million in damages for the disparaging remarks made against Polito’s business.
Wishnew warns people to be careful what they put on the internet when reviewing a business.
“Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. Things you put on the internet to attack a business have real world consequences.”
Feature photo: CBS-DFW