Andrea Polito was a successful, Dallas-area wedding photographer.
Then she met the Moldovans.
The bride, Neely Moldovan, was a blogger. Polito warned her staff that everything had to be perfect. She delivered the couple proofs of their wedding pictures and waited for them to fill out a form to indicate which photos they wanted for their album. The album included a cover photo, which was another $150. They needed to order the album to get their high-resolution copies of the photos.
This is standard practice for professional photographers. After all, if they just sent the high-res photos, the couple would likely disappear and get their own prints.
Instead of filling out the form and paying the fee, the Moldovans went to the media, saying that their precious memories were being held hostage for $150.
News outlets initially presented the story as a consumer alert, taking Polito to task for not giving the couple their photos. Polito started getting cancellations and one-star reviews, which led to her having to close her studio.
Polito decided to take action: She sued the Moldovans. The terms of receiving the high-resolution photos were in bold print in the contract the Moldovans signed. Polito also had emails showing that she and her staff reviewed the contract with the Moldovans and even offered to waive the $150 fee.
Although the Moldovans tried to get the case thrown out, a judge ruled it should go forward. A jury found that the Moldovans had defamed and disparaged Polito, and they awarded Polito $1 million.
What can we learn from this?
Always read any contracts you sign. If you’re a freelancer, like Polito, have a contract in place to protect yourself.
But perhaps more importantly, don’t be like the Moldovans. If the Moldovans had just worked with Polito even a little bit, Polito would still be in business, and the Moldovans wouldn’t have lost a humiliating court case – not to mention all that money.
It’s nice to see that greed and fame didn’t win in the end.