A Texas couple has to pay their wedding photographer more than $1 million in damages after a jury ruled they launched an online smear campaign that destroyed her reputation and business.
The case was settled Monday after it was determined Neely and Andrew Moldovan “wrongfully attacked” Andrea Polito and her company Andrea Polito Photography Inc. in pursuing “an extensive social media campaign against her,” according to a press release cited by WFFA.
The couple had hired Polito to photograph their October 2014 wedding and the events leading up to it, but claimed there were “unreasonable fees,” according to the civil suit filed in 2015.
Weeks after the wedding the Moldovans began inquiring when their images would arrive, and Polito’s company reminded them they were required to pick a cover image for their album so that it may be completed, Dallas News reported.
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The couple objected to paying the $125 for the cover image — despite its mention in the contract — so Polito decided to absorb the cost. When she reached out to the couple several days later, she learned they’d already contacted several news outlets to complain that she’d been “holding their photos hostage,” according to the suit.
The jury agreed the Moldovans aditonally made “disparaging and defamatory statements” across social media and on wedding blogs, claiming the photographer “cheated” and “scammed people.” The Moldovans also liked a series of negative comments published by others on Yelp, according to The News.
Polito said the couple managed to destroy a business overnight that she spent 13 years building.
In one year, her business typically booked between 75 and 100 weddings. In the wake of the Moldovans’ news story, it booked only two.
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“People knew me and my reputation,” she told the newspaper. “I’ve shot several Dallas elites. All the name calling, all the bullying … I was humiliated.”
Polito, who told CBS she hasn’t picked up a camera to photograph a wedding in two years, is ready to rebuild her business. She added that she hopes others in a similar situation can learn to “fight for what’s right and fight for your passion.”
“No one is safe from this,” she told the Dallas News. “I wasn’t a new business I was an established business with a reputation that was well-respected in Dallas.”
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