A couple who claimed that their wedding photographer was holding their wedding photos 'hostage' and spread falsehoods about her business online, have been ordered to pay over €1.5M in a defamation lawsuit.
Photographer Andrea Polito, from Dallas, Texas, was awarded $1.8M USD (€1.5M) in thelawsuit which determined that one of the couples who hired her to capture their wedding photos had "pursued an extensive social media campaign" against her that a jury found to be "false and malicious" in nature.
The case was settled in a court after a Dallas County jury found that couple Neely and Andrew Moldovan wrongfully attacked Andrea Polito and her company, Andrea Polito Photography, Inc., according to her lawyer David Wishnew.
"This was a targeted campaign," Wishnew said. "It was online bullying."
According to her lawyer, the couple, who wed in October 2014, claimed several falsehoods on social media, and undertook a campaign to destroy Polito's business.
In a 2014 TV interview, the Moldovans said Polito was “holding their pictures hostage" and in comments that subsequently went viral online the couplealso claimed thatPolito "cheated" and "scammed" them.
The comments, according to the lawsuit, appeared on Neely Moldovan's beauty and lifestyle blog.
Wishnew argued that an attempt to "boost traffic" to Ms. Moldovan's blog was a further reason the couple spread false information.
The couple are reported to have complained online about "unreasonable fees" associated with the delivery of their wedding photos, and objected to the contract's stipulation for selecting a $125 photo album cover before they received their wedding photos.
According to the case Ms Moldovan said in one Facebook conversation that she was "pretty sure [Polito's] business is done."
After deliberating for two hours the jury believed they saw evidence that "affirmed that Ms. Polito followed the terms of the contract signed by the couple and even sought to further explain the contract and satisfy their demands," according to PRNewswire.
The Moldovans were found liable for disparagement, defamation, and civil conspiracy and must now pay Polito $1.08 million in damages.
"Ms. Polito hopes this verdict will reinforce her attempts to repair her reputation, while also sending a message that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences," said Ms. Polito's lawyer.
"Texas has one of the strongest laws in the nation to protect individuals who air legitimate grievances and opinions. But those protections don't extend to a concerted campaign designed to defame and destroy someone's hard-earned business," he said.
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