Weddings: these momentous occasions bring out the best and worst in people. Emotions are high and expectations are even higher. And if there's one professional that may bear the brunt of these emotions and expectations, it's the wedding photographer.
You'd expect the story of the wedding photographer Andrea Polito to be one about her being sued by an unhappy couple. While the bride was indeed unhappy with the photography services, she's not the one initiating a lawsuit – the photographer is.
The Case of the "Hostage" Wedding Photos
Let's recap what brought these parties to this unfortunate legal crossroad. According to PetaPixel…
- Texas-based photographer Andrea Polito took photos at Andrew and Neely Moldovan's wedding.
- Polito informed the couple they would need to pay a $150 fee for the wedding album's cover.
- The couple refused because the fee was not explicitly stated in the contract and they'd already paid $6,000 in full for their chosen photography package.
- The couple went public with their discontent, alleging Polito was holding their photos "hostage."
Because Polito relies on her reputation to do business, this turn of events was especially difficult. With the couple dragging her business's name through the mud on the local news, surely prospective clients will think twice before hiring her.
So, according to the report, Polito decided to take action – she's suing the couple over:
- Business disparagement.
- Tortious interference with prospective contracts.
- Civil conspiracy.
She is seeking up to $1 million in damages.
While many small-business owners can empathize with Polito's position and decision to pursue legal action, there is one thing to be aware of: General Liability Insurance won't cover lawsuits business owners initiate. You can learn more about that in "Small Business Brings $65k Lawsuit over Negative Online Review."
Accused of Defamation? There's Coverage for That
Though General Liability Insurance won't cover defamation lawsuits you file, it may offer coverage when your business is the one being accused of ruining someone's reputation. Most GL policies include advertising injury coverage, which means it can step in when you're sued over:
- Libel (written statements that harm someone's reputation).
- Slander (spoken statements that harm someone's reputation).
- Copying someone's advertising ideas.
- Copyright or trademark infringement.
- Invasion of privacy.
You'd be surprised how easy it is to accidentally commit these injuries when you use social media marketing. We have an entire eBook dedicated to explaining advertising injuries and how to avoid them, so check it out here: Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury.
Dispute Resolution: Best Practices
That's all well and good, but what should you do if you feel as though legal action is your only respite when clients or competitors are slandering you? Because you can't rely on your commercial liability insurance to help out, it's important to exhaust all other forms of dispute resolution before you hire an attorney and head to court.
Here are some ideas:
- Offer solutions as soon as you become aware of the problem. It seems Polito did try to waive the $150 fee when the dispute started to escalate, but tensions may have been too high at that point for the offer to assuage bitter feelings.
- Keep in touch with the unhappy client throughout the dispute. You will only make them more upset when their emails or phone calls are ignored.
- Document all your interactions. Start a separate email folder to store the exchanges you have with the upset client. If you talk on the phone with them, be sure to take notes and send an email that reiterates whatever decisions were made. Your documentation can act as proof if the dispute ends up in court.
- Request to bring in a mediator. If the problem continues, it may be in both parties' best interest to try formal mediation. The end result may be a monetary settlement, but it keeps you out of court and is usually faster and cheaper than litigation.
For more customer service tips, read "Make a Better Impression on 88% of Your Potential Clients."