After getting a fee from their wedding photographer that they claimed to be “hidden,” they decided to totally trash her business on social media. The issue with that? The photographer claimed that the couple knew about the fee all along, and now they’re paying dearly for it. A $125 fine suddenly turned into a $1.08 million-dollar lawsuit.
This story is just crazy!
Andrew and Neely Moldovan were married in October of 2014 and what should have been the best day of their life, turned into a nightmare.
The pair hired Bella Boudoir by Andrea Polito to photograph their wedding day, and Neely had a ton of communication with Polito in the weeks leading up to the wedding, making sure everything would be perfect.
Neely works as a full-time beauty blogger, and Polito knew that she would have high expectations for the photos.
Neely wanted her photos to be perfect and after the wedding, she wanted to see them… fast. A few weeks after the wedding day, Neely began pestering Polito for the wedding photos.
The studio sent the Moldovans a few proofs from the big day, but held off on sending all of the high-resolution pics for one important reason.
The couple still needed to submit their order form, choose a cover photo for their album and pay the $125 fee for the cover.
The Moldovans were not pleased with the studio’s request as they felt this fee should have been discussed prior to the wedding.
Polito claims that the fee was clearly included in the paperwork that they signed before their wedding.
After a few weeks of back and forth banter between then newlyweds and the studio, Polito decided to simply drop the fee and move on with getting the couple their photos.
Despite the kind act from Polito, this didn’t stop the couple from slamming her business on every social media platform and even contacting news outlets. They did an interview with local news station KXAS-TV on January 15, right in the heart of Polito’s booking season, to talk about how she was “holding their photos hostage.”
Polito, who had been been running her business for 13 years, was not impressed and completely devastated.
Belle Boudoir by Andrea Polito was nearly destroyed overnight, as bad reviews came pouring in, mostly from people who had heard about the story expressing their outrage on the couples behalf. Many folks creating reviews were only hearing one side of the story.
“I was proud of my accomplishments, what I have done. They took that away from me,” said Polito. “All the name calling, all the bullying… I was humiliated.”
After not booking a wedding in nearly two years because of it, Polito was forced to close her business.
So, what is a business owner to do when their business is taken down because of a couple of bullies? Well, you sue them. And that’s exactly what Polito did.
Polito slapped them with a defamation lawsuit and won.
After a jury found them guilty of defamation and malicious statements, the Maldovans were ruled liable for $1.08M in damages.
“No one is saying you can’t go and write a review,” Polito’s attorney Dave Wishnew said. “Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. Things you put on the Internet to attack a business have real-world consequences and that really resonated with the jury. You can’t go and burn someone’s house down and claim free speech.”
Polito expressed her appreciation and relief on Facebook.
After the verdict, the Moldovans released a statement:
“We are stunned. We did what consumer advocates say to do: When you are wronged, you fight back.
We were unhappy with a situation, so we complained like anyone would. This court decision tells consumers not to speak up for fear of fat legal bills and painful judgments.
If this is the cost of standing up for what’s right, we should have given in to start with. But we hope to prevail in the end.
We’d love nothing more than to put this behind us and focus on raising our 5-month-old child.”
The moral of the story…it’s probably best to just keep the media and social media out of your problems. This was certainly a costly lesson learned!