Photographer Wins $1 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against Couple

A Dallas County jury has handed down a $1 million verdict after they decided a local couple ran a smear campaign against a prominent wedding photographer on social media. Could this decision set precedent for other photographers treated badly online?

We reported back in 2015 how a wedding photographer who was being sued for allegedly holding wedding photos hostage had struck back with a lawsuit of her own against the couple in question for damages associated with defamation of character and reputation for upwards of $1 million. Two years later a Dallas County jury only needed a few hours to favor with photographer Andrea Polito and passed a $1 million verdict after they decided that a local couple had defamed Polito over the Internet and on local news.

The couple at the heart of this verdict does have the right to appeal the decision and at this time the attorney representing the couple said they had no comment on the matter. Regardless of an appeal this conclusion really does illustrate how people's actions online can have major implications in the real world and as a result, those in the wrong should face consequences for their actions.

What do you guys think? Do you think the verdict will protect photographers better in the future? Leave a message in the comments, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

[via CBS Local]

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Clifford Baldwin's picture

Clearly, this is not over yet. No doubt the defendants will appeal. Not knowing more about this case than the news report, I can't speak to the merits of each sides argument, but it seems to me that raising hell on the internet is a bad way to deal with a business dispute. At the very least, maybe other folks will think twice and seek to resolve things by more responsible methods.

Paul Adshead's picture

I really hope so too Clifford. At the very least we have an article which we can forward to clients? ;)

Peter Guyton's picture

Libel is "a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation."

In this day and age, people don't get it yet that they are "publishing" when they post on social media. My guess is that there will be an appeal and then it will be settled somewhere in the middle; and it will not be publicized.

As I remember this case, the woman responsible was a social media professional. So, really, should have known. And don't forget they talked to local news too.

Paul Adshead's picture

Oh wow so that's probably why the original bad press spread as effectively as it did.

Paul Adshead's picture

Totally agree Peter. If we hear any updates we'll let the readers know.

michael buehrle's picture

she could have still shot the last 2 years. she never said all her future clients cancelled right ? i get the suit by her but that she has not picked up a camera "her passion" in 2 years seems a bit too much drama.

Adam Milton's picture

"Polito said she has not picked up a camera to shoot a wedding in nearly two years. She said she was forced to close her business and give up her dream job after the dispute between the clients went viral."

Maybe try reading the article next time.

Paul Adshead's picture

I think you make a valid point Michael, although what the photogher went through was 100% uncalled for & the $1m to compensate for a destroyed business the very least she should get. The not shooting for two years does feel dramatic...

Jaden D.'s picture

I totally agree... she could have still shot something in two years.... To be honest, I completely forgot about this story and I'm sure most people have as well...

You can lose passion for something very quickly if you are depressed. Losing her business and reputation would have caused pretty severe depression. Maybe photography is ruined for her because of this couples actions. I could completely understand that.

Paul Adshead's picture

That's very true Ben, I've seen people fall out of love with photography for less.

Jon Miller's picture

If you are really passionate about something and that feeling is taken away I do not believe you can just one day wake up and start again. Every time you think of picking up the camera you will reflect on what destroyed you mentally. It makes it difficult to pick up the camera and get back on that high that was once there. She may pickup and shoot something, however, she may never get that high or enjoy the passion again. It has brought to the forefront of her thoughts how easy it was for someone to destroy you. It's going to take a few visits to a psych to get her back on track.
Once your passion has been ripped from your heart it is a tough one to repair. You may shoot again but again as I've stated before it will not be the same, haunting memories will linger on.

Charles Burgess's picture

Major stress can cause the creative muse to evaporate without a hint of if and when it might return. Anyone who has gone through similar turmoil, for good cause or not, knows just how disruptive the legal wranglings can be to anyone's life.

Brad Barton's picture

The news story broke just as booking season hit - and she went from dozens of weddings booked the previous year to two or three. It destroyed her company and she had to let go of her staff (3 or 4 employees as I recall). She did large budget weddings for high end clients.

So no, she couldn't just "pick up her camera" and shoot a wedding...

Glen Grant's picture

If you wilfully set out to cause harm to any business without merit and due cause then you should be held liable for damages.
With social media it is way too easy for an unhappy souls to start and spread ill will and we know that once it is out just saying sorry does not fix the harm.
Photographers work on their reputation and so any impact caused to such should be rewarded.
Should they appeal then I hope damages grow should such appeal be lost.