Written by Katie Byrne, published 7th august
Eek - a couple has been ordered to pay their wedding photographer over one million dollars after she sued them for defamation.
Neely and Andrew Moldovan, from Texas, became embroiled in a legal battle with photographer Andrea Polito after she sued them over negative statements they'd made in the public domain about the work she had done for them.
The problem began back in October 2014, when the then-newlywed Moldovans began emailing Polito's photography company, asking for high-resolution photographs from their recent nuptials. However, the couple's contract had stated they would receive the photographs when their whole wedding album was complete - and at that point, they had yet to complete an order form, or pay the $125 fee for the album's front cover, which Polito typically had custom-made in Italy for clients.
After some back-ing and forth-ing, photographer Polito told local title the Dallas Morning News that she had decided to absorb the fee.
However, shortly afterwards, Neely and Andrew appeared on Dallas-Forth Worth TV station NBC 5, claiming their wedding photos were being withheld owing to the dispute over the unpaid fee; bride Neely observed at the time: "It's heartbreaking, because, you know, these are our memories".
As a result of the ensuing backlash, Polito's reputation was left in tatters and she was forced to close her studio.
In the defamation suit she filed, Polito said the Moldovans had 'engaged in a smear campaign' against her business, as well as making 'disparaging and defamatory' comments about her and her brand online.
Now, two years later, a jury has found the couple liable for defamation, disparagement and civil conspiracy, with Polito telling PEOPLE: "I finally feel some vindication after almost three years of a legal battle brought on by a fabricated news story and a social media attack. I hope my story provides an example for businesses and consumers of how quickly a successful business and reputation can be damaged by false information and social media bullying".
In a statement shared with E! News, Neely Moldovan said: "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 judgements. 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 five month old child".
Image posed by models.