Couples Told by Court to Pay US$1.08M (RM4.625M) to a Wedding Photographer in Defamation Lawsuit

Photographers are cheering the end of a marathon lawsuit today, a case that pinned beleaguered wedding photographer Andrea Polito against blogger Neely Moldovan (update 03 Aug 2017: her blog seems to be inaccessible right now) and her husband, who set out to destroy her career after a minor disagreement over their wedding photos.

The whole dispute began over a $125 photo album cover that the couple didn’t want to pay for.

Polito had photographed the couple’s wedding in October of 2014, and when Moldovan followed up a few weeks later to ask about the photos, the photographer reminded her that the photos wouldn’t be released until the album was completed. According to the contract they had signed, the Moldovans would have to submit an order form and select a cover photo.

The couple balked, and Polito sent an email saying she would absorb the cost of the album cover to keep them happy. Two days later, she learned that the Moldovans had contacted several local news stations, claiming she was “holding their photos hostage.” In just a few days, this narrative went viral and essentially destroyed Polito’s 13-year-old business. What’s more, the couple gloated about their success online, liked defamatory statements on Yelp and more.

Polito filed a defamation suit against the couple in April of 2015, and on Friday a jury found in Polito’s favor, ordering the Moldovans to pay US$1.08 million (RM4.625M) in damages for the “defamatory, disparaging and malicious statements” they made. Polito’s attorney, Dave Wishnew, took to Facebook to celebrate the verdict:

“Freedem of speech does not mean freedom from consequences,” writes Wishnew. “There are real world consequences for maliciously attacking a business online with venom and lies.”

For Polito’s part, she’s relieved, if exhausted:

“I’m emotionally exhausted. This has been a very long battle,” she tells the Dallas Morning News. “Last Friday when the verdict was read I felt a little bit relieved, but most importantly I feel my reputation was restored to myself. What’s been so hard the past couple of years has been feeling so ashamed of this story.”

The case might not be over yet—as the Moldovans can still appeal the ruling—but this is a big win for photographers everywhere. In the Internet age, when a viral news story can destroy a 13-year career overnight, it’s nice to know that justice is still an attainable goal… even if it does take two and a half years to get there.