A jury took a few hours to find the couple liable for defamation, disparagement and civil conspiracy, thereby awarding Polito $1.08m. Although Polito said it was in the contract that the couple had to submit an order form and to choose a cover photo for their picture album, with a $125 fee for the cover, the Moldovans declined to pay that.
"Ms. Polito hopes this verdict will reinforce her attempts to fix her reputation, while also sending a message that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences", said plaintiff's attorney Dave Wishnew of Dallas-based Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank.
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.
The wedding photographer agreed to waive the $125 fee - but learned the couple dragged her name through the mud to local news stations, claiming she was "holding their photos hostage".
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Upset with Polito, the couple engaged in a social media campaign to spread falsehoods about Polito and her business. "My reputation was everything to me".
"We are hoping that our story makes the news and completely ruins her business", Neely Moldovan allegedly wrote to someone, according to records that surfaced in court.
Andrea Polito sued Andrew and Neely Moldovan after they made false accusations that destroyed her business, Dallas News reports. Things you put on the internet to attack a business have real world consequences and that really resonated with the jury.
Between Mrs. Moldovan's blog posts, Facebook conversations of hers that seemed pleased Polito was going out of business - "pretty sure her business is done" - likes of bad reviews on Yelp, including one that alleged Polito gave that commenter AIDS.
"It's a number. It means to me that I get my name back", said Polito. When she reached out to the couple several days later, she learned they'd already contacted several news outlets to complain that she'd been "holding their photos hostage", according to the suit.
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Reacted to the verdict, Polito said, 'I'm emotionally exhausted.
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 affects lives", said Polito.
The couple's attorney says they do not wish to comment on the case.
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