By now I am sure you have heard the viral news story about the wedding photographer who was awarded over a million dollars in a defamation lawsuit last month.
If you have not, here is what you need to know:
Andrea Polito is a professional photographer from Dallas, Texas who took pictures for Andrew and Neely Moldovan on their wedding day. The newlyweds became impatient after the wedding while waiting for the pictures to be ready, so they inquired about the photos. Polito said she was still waiting on a few items from the couple in order to finish the pictures. But, the couple was not satisfied with this answer and began contacting local news stations saying Polito was holding their photos hostage. The newlyweds took it a step further by making negative false claims on social media, blogs, and posting bad reviews on Yelp. This instantly began to ruin Polito’s reputation as a photographer. The couple also did an interview on their local NBC channel at the start of Polito’s primary booking season and as a result Polito received just 2 wedding photography gigs instead of her usual 75-100.
If these bad reviews, social media posts, the news interview, and the calls to the news stations had all been honest and accurate, the newlyweds might have a different story to tell. But the facts proved otherwise in court, and a jury determined that the statements were defamatory and awarded Polito 1.08 million dollars in damages.
The newlyweds were stunned with the result and said the court decision encourages consumers not to speak up for fear of legal bills. Polito’s lawyer responded by saying that people can write reviews, but that there is not a freedom from consequence. And that is what the jury resonated with.
With the omnipresence of social media in society today, issues like this have become more prevalent. It might seem strange to think that a tweet or a Yelp review has so much power, but Polito’s loss of business is proof of that power.
Price & Keir recently represented a client in a defamation lawsuit whereby our client, a charitable organization, was being slandered by a small, independent “news” outlet actually spreading “fake news”. After trial, the judge awarded our client $60,000.00 for his loss of reputation, and required the “fake news” outlet to create a video apologizing for their slanderous comments and actions. The Court also required the defendant to post the video on Facebook, which has received thousands of views.
Online defamation is a serious issue. If someone’s false and defamatory comments have caused your business to lose money, call our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation. As always, every case is different, and past performance is not indicative of future success.