DALLAS (KTVT/CNN) – A jury handed down a $1 million verdict on Monday in favor of a photographer who sued her former clients for defamation.
Andrea Polito said the dispute started in 2014 with a couple whose wedding she photographed.
The couple was apparently upset about various aspects of Polito’s work, but she said they responded by lying about her online and on the air, ruining her business.
“I felt completely dead,” Polito said. “You know, it was my passion, and I loved my clients and I loved what I did.”
She hasn’t 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 a client went viral.
“It was really hard. My reputation was everything to me,” Polito said.
It’s reputation a jury just decided was wrongfully tarnished.
“My business was destroyed overnight,” she said.
Two clients became upset over the handling, packaging and charging of their wedding photos.
Court documents showed the couple claimed their photos were being “held hostage” and led a social media campaign to hurt the reputation of Polito and her business.
“I was paying cash everywhere because I didn’t want people to see my name on my credit card,” Polito said.
Attorney Dave Wishnew says it took the jury a few hours to find the couple liable for defamation, disparagement and civil conspiracy.
“What you say and what you post online has real-world consequences,” he said.
While Wishnew knows the couple can appeal and there are challenges in collecting the $1 million dollar verdict, he and Polito feels the vindication goes beyond monetary value.
“It’s a number. It means to me that I get my name back,” she said.
She said she hopes her case is a lesson to all.
“It affects lives. There’s someone on the other side of that keyboard and they have a family and they have businesses,” Polito said.
The couple’s attorney says they do not wish to comment on the case.
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