Couple loses legal fight against wedding photographer, ordered to pay $1 million
An autumn affair at the Petroleum Club in downtown Dallas, the union of a full-time beauty blogger and the love of her life, appeared to be a gorgeous thing — marred by one misfortune.
Three months after the ceremony, in front of a local television crew, Andrew and Neely Moldovan showed off a box of glum, empty picture frames.
Their photographer was withholding the images, they told NBC affiliate KXAS in January 2015, and was demanding an extra $150 when they already had paid thousands.
“It’s heartbreaking, because, you know, these are our memories,” Neely Moldovan said. And many agreed. “Wedding photographer holds couple’s pictures hostage,” blared the Daily Mail a few days later.
The Moldovans’ sympathizers descended on photographer Andrea Polito’s review pages, calling her a scam artist or worse.
Her reputation was ruined; her business dried up. And she closed her studio. Then the story changed. Polito sued the Moldovans, claiming all they ever had to do to get their glossies was fill out a form, choose options for their wedding album and pay a small charge they had long known about.
The photographer showed the court emails in which she and her employees tried to appease the couple — even as the Moldovans were calling reporters, whipping up a furor on social media and plugging their newfound fame to fans of Neely Moldovan’s beauty blog, Polito said.
On Friday, a jury in Dallas decided that the tale of the ransomed wedding photos was not heartbreaking, and not even true.
In fact, the jurors concluded, the accusations amounted to malicious defamation for which the Moldovans should pay the photographer more than $1 million damages.
The Moldovans haven’t commented on the verdict, which they can still challenge.
Neely Moldovan did not mention it to her thousands of followers in her latest blog post, which concerned post-pregnancy pore troubles.
But Polito, who hopes the jury’s decision will help her rebuild a ruined career, was happy to share her version of the saga with The Washington Post.
The photographer had built her business — including a 300,000square-foot studio in downtown Dallas, with employees and contractors — largely on word of mouth, she told The Post.
“They can’t refer a bride when this is going on,” she said.
She told the court that only two clients were willing to sign with her after news stories ran, and she had to shut her studio down and start living off savings.
It’s not certain that Polito will ever see the $1 million. Her lawyer, Dave Wishnew, said he expects the couple to challenge the verdict.
A jury found that Neely and Andrew Moldovan had defamed and disparaged Andrea Polito, above, and her photography studio — and conspired to do so.
Jurors concluded the Moldovans, shown on their wedding day, should pay Polito more than $1 million in damages.