Don’t play with fire if you don’t want to get burned, they say.
Read more: 8 ways to avoid surprise wedding costs
One Texas couple, three years after the fact, has gotten severely burned by their actions, as an apparent dispute over a $125 fee for their wedding photos turned into online nastiness and, ultimately, defamation, in the eyes of a Dallas County jury.
Minor fee transforms into major suit payout
According to Dallas News, area photographer Andrea Polito has been awarded $1.08 million in the civil defamation suit she filed in March 2015 against Neely and Andrew Moldovan.
Polito argued that blogger Neely Moldovan, on her then-operational website “A Complete Waste of Makeup,” and other efforts made by the woman and her husband on social media to attack her business, destroyed her 13 years of work overnight, going from 75 to 100 weddings a year to two.
“I was proud of my accomplishments, what I have done. They took that away from me. It’s been a fight for myself to get my reputation back,” Polito said. “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 story goes that things started going downhill weeks after the wedding, when Mrs. Moldovan asked when high-resolution pictures would be ready. Although Polito said it was in the contract that the couple had to submit an order form and to choose a cover photo for their picture album, with a $125 fee for the cover, the Moldovans declined to pay that.
This was the way it was for “several weeks,” and Polito said she had planned just waive the fee, but, days later, accusations that her company was “holding their photos hostage” began swirling. The Moldovans went to local news outlets with the story.
It didn’t stop there.
Between Mrs. Moldovan’s blog posts, Facebook conversations of hers that seemed pleased Polito was going out of business — “pretty sure her business is done” — likes of bad reviews on Yelp, including one that alleged Polito gave that commenter AIDS.
Polito’s lawyer said that the Moldovans claimed others had created fake profiles to do this stuff in their names, but he said that this was proven false.
A jury agreed, and as a result, the Moldovans are on the hook for $1.08 million for defamatory, disparaging and malicious statements.
In an interview with NBC Dallas Fort-Worth in 2015, the couple told their side of the story
They said Polito had been paid more than $6,000, that the dispute wasn’t about the money but the “principle” of the thing.
On the fee for the cover of the album Neely Moldovan said, “We can pay the $150, but it’s the principle. It’s not the money to us. It’s the principle of the fact we already paid you.”
“It just didn’t make sense,” Andrew Moldovan added. “An album comes with a cover. It’s a component of an album. It’s a book.” The couple said they were told that unless the fee was paid by Feb. 18 they’d have to “forfeit” the album, which would be archived and gotten back for another $250 dollars.
That dispute appears to be the source of the photo-hostage-taking accusation and everything that followed.