In a recent court ruling in Dallas, Texas, local wedding photographer Andrea Polito was recently awarded $1.08 million as a result of a defamation lawsuit she launched against formal bridal clients Neely and Andrew Moldovan, the result of a years-long online campaign to destroy the photographer's reputation.
The jury unanimously found the couple acted of out malice in targeting Polito in 2015.
In a 2014 TV interview, the couple charged that Ms. Polito was "holding their pictures hostage".
The Dallas County jury found Friday that the campaign against Andrea Polito amounted to defamation.
Polito told CBS Dallas/Fort Worth she has not picked up a camera to shoot a wedding in almost two years. 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. She explained that she offered the couple a free album cover before any mention of a news interview had come up, and said that the couple instead chose to go ahead with smearing Polito and her business publicly. "Statements like, "I'm pretty sure her business is ruined, ' 'I hope this goes viral, ' 'feeling excited, ' and 'justice has been served" are not the actions of a concerned and hurt bride", PetaPixel quotes Polito as saying.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Polito emailed the couple reminding them that, per the signed contract, photos would be released after the photo album was completed and that they needed to select a cover photo and submit an order form. "My reputation was everything to me", Polito said.
After an enormous online backlash against Polito, the photographer published an open letter explaining her side of the story.
"Ms. Polito hopes this verdict will reinforce her attempts to fix her reputation, while also sending a message that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences", said Dave Wishnew, Polito's lawyer.
While Wishnew knows the couple can appeal and there are challenges in collecting the $1 million dollar verdict, he and Polito feels the vindication goes beyond monetary value.
Adding, 'It's been a fight for myself to get my reputation back'. The Moldovans took to local news and social media, claiming Polito was holding their images hostage, and nearly immediately Polito's business and reputation began to suffer.
They said Polito had been paid more than $6,000, that the dispute wasn't about the money but the "principle" of the thing.
The photographer says she's planning to rebuild her business but will be shifting her focus toward helping other photographers grow their businesses. Their Attorney T. Chase Garrett told CBS-DFW "no comment", and said his clients didn't want to talk.