A couple who “ruined” a wedding photographer’s reputation over a $US125 fee have been ordered to pay her more than $1.3 million in damages.
Neely and Andrew Moldovan were married in October 2014 and hired Andrea Polito’s company to photograph their wedding in downtown Dallas, and the events leading up to it, according to Dallas News.
But weeks after the wedding, Mrs Moldovan claimed she hadn’t received the photos.
She emailed the photographer, who reminded her in the contract that the couple had to pay $125 for a cover photo for the wedding album.
Ms Polito told NBC in 2015 the couple had not paid for the cover, which was an “a la carte item" due to the variation of covers available.
The Moldovans accused Andrea Polito Photography of withholding their wedding photos.
Mrs Moldovan, a beauty blogger, said it was heartbreaking “because, you know, these are our memories”.
Ms Polito said she agreed to foot the bill for the cover to satisfy her customers but learned the story had gone viral.
“Wedding photographer holds couple’s pictures hostage,” a Daily Mail headline read a few days later.
The Moldovans had their supporters too and they descended on Ms Polito’s review pages, panning her, abusing her and calling her a scam artist.
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She was forced to close her studio she had worked in for 10 years as business dried up and launched a defamation lawsuit against the couple.
Mrs Polito claimed the Moldovans knew about the fee and simply had to fill out a form.
But the Moldovans launched a campaign against the photographer, one that involved causing a social media storm and discrediting Mrs Polito’s business.
On Friday, a Dallas County jury ruled the wedding photos were not ransomed after being shown emails sent from Andrea Polito Photography trying to appease the couple.
The couple were found liable for defamation disparagement, and civil conspiracy, and awarded punitive damages.
Mrs Polito was awarded $US1.08m (A$1.36m) in damages and hopes to rebuild her reputation after a “very long battle”.
"No one is safe from this," she said. "I wasn’t a new business, I was an established business with a reputation that was well-respected in the Dallas community."
The Moldovans can still appeal the ruling.