Couple must pay wedding photographer $1.08M after online campaign destroyed her business

Here’s a simple question.  What would you rather pay — $125 or $1.08 million?  If this sounds like a trick question, keep reading.

In October 2014, Andrew and Neely Moldovan married.  The hired Andrea Polito Photography to shoot their wedding.  From all indications, Polito had a thriving business and good reputation. According to Polito, she was a go-to photographer for elite clients in Dallas, Texas.

A few weeks after their wedding, Neely Moldovan began emailing Polito, asking when the high-resolution photos of her wedding would be available.  Ms. Polito reminded her that, in order to fulfill the order, the wedding album would need to be completed. In order to do so,  the couple needed to fill out their order form and select a cover photo.  Apparently, this is where things began going off-the-rails.

Polito charged $125 for a cover photo.  The couple objected to paying for it.  After several weeks of going back and forth, Polito emailed them to say she would eat the cost.  Two days later, Andrea Polito became aware of a chain of events that would see her business ruined and that would ultimately lead her to file a lawsuit against the Moldovans.

It began when Polito found out that the Moldovans contacted several local news stations claiming she was “holding their photos hostage.”  It only got worse from there.  Within days of the news story, a number of negative reviews began showing up on Yelp.  One reviewer even claimed that Andrea Polito gave him/her AIDS.  Disturbingly enough, the Moldovans “liked” this review.  These reviews have since been removed from Yelp for violating their terms of service.

The couple also took their campaign to other blogs and social media platforms, labeling Polito a cheater and a scammer.  Ultimately, the business Polito built over 13 years dried up almost instantly.  When the 2015 wedding season rolled around, she went from booking her average of 75-100 jobs to just 2.

In March 2015, Polito filed a defamation lawsuit against the couple.  On July 28, after nearly 2-1/2 years, a jury returned a verdict in this case.  The court ruled in favor of Andrea Polito, awarding her $1.08 million in damages.

Now, Polito says she is undertaking the process of rebuilding her reputation and business. There is no word yet on whether the Moldovans will appeal the ruling.

So, I ask again — would you rather pay $125 or $1.08 million?

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An opinionated technologist, JP launched Death By Social Media when he saw just how easily and how often people's misunderstanding/abuse of social media created personal catastrophes. As a result, he wanted to provide a resource that would provide cautionary tales for those seeking to avoid similar fates.