DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas County jury handed down a $1 million verdict after they decided a local couple defamed a prominent wedding photographer online and on air.
Andrea Polito said the situation started in 2014 with a local couple who was unhappy over the handling, packaged and charging of their wedding photographs.
“I felt completely dead,” said Polito. “You know it was my passion and I loved my clients and I loved what I did.”
Polito said she has not 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 the clients went viral.
“It was really hard,” said Polito. “My reputation was everything to me.”
A reputation a jury found was wrongfully tarnished.
“My business was destroyed overnight,” said Polito.
The jury found the couple became upset and took to the internet and used the local news to lie about what happened.
Court documents show 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,” said Polito.
Attorney Dave Wishnew, who represented Polito, said 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,” said Wishnew.
While he understands the couple can appeal and there are challenges in collecting the $1 million verdict, Wishnew and Polito feel it goes beyond monetary value.
“It’s a number. It means to me that I get my name back,” said Polito.
She hopes her case is a lesson to everyone posting on the internet and on social media.
“It affects lives,” said Polito. There’s someone on the other side of that keyboard and they have a family and they have businesses.”
The attorney representing the couple, T. Chase Garrett, said “no comment,” when reached by phone and said the couple had no interest in speaking.