(MEREDITH/KTVT) -- A couple upset over a $125 fee from their wedding photographer now has a much bigger bill to pay. A jury decided the couple defamed Andrea Polito through a campaign of falsehoods on social media and interviews and awarded her more than $1 million in damages.
It began in 2014, Polito says, when Andrew and Neely Moldovan became upset with her over access to their photos, and what they thought were hidden fees. They took to social media to complain and said their photos were being “held hostage,” according to court documents.
Polito hasn’t had work covering weddings in nearly two years, which she believes is a result of the Moldovan’s campaign to disparage her business.
“I felt completely dead. You know, it was my passion, and I loved my clients and I loved when I did.”
After the dispute with the Moldovans went viral, she says she had to close her business and give up her dream job. “It was really hard. My reputation was everything to me,” Polito told KTVT. “My business was destroyed overnight.”
The jury sided with Polito in the case, finding the Moldovans liable for defamation, disparagement and civil conspiracy. “What you say and what you post online has real-world consequences,” said Dave Wishnew, Polito’s attorney.
More important than the monetary reward for Polito is hope that the jury’s decision could mean a return to photographing weddings and her dream job. She also hopes that her case is a lesson for others to consider the effect their words can have online.
"It affects lives. There's someone on the other side of that keyboard and they have a family and they have businesses."
The attorney for the Moldovans declined to comment on the case.