Most people don’t like reading contracts and it’s no surprise why. They are usually boring, wordy, and full of legalese that can be difficult to understand. Reading them requires an attention span longer than most of us have and it’s easier to just sign on the dotted line rather than slog through each of the terms and determine whether they are agreeable. If a person does not make a living as a general contractor, wedding photographer, or any profession that signs contracts with clients on a regular basis, they may not realize how important a contract is.
At it’s very core, a contract is an agreement defining the rights and obligations of each party. It may spell out fees and payment schedules or list deadlines for when work is to be completed. As long as each side adheres to their obligations in a contract, there’s usually no need to get the lawyers involved.
The real problem arises when people do not read contracts, sign them anyway, breach their contractual obligations, talk trash about the other party online, and then wonder why a jury just awarded the other side $1,000,000. That is exactly what happened to Andrew and Neely Moldovan when they hired a wedding photographer, refused to comply with their contractual obligations, and took to the internet to defame the photographer.
Most wedding photographers are not cheap. Many charge thousands of dollars to attend the wedding day festivities and take pictures with additional charges for prints and/or albums. After shelling out thousands for photographer Andrea Polito, the Moldovans were incensed over a $125 fee for a cover for their wedding album. The Moldovans claimed the photographer was withholding the images over this fee and took their angst public. There was so much public outrage directed at Polito that her reputation was ruined and she was forced to close her photography studio. Then, Polito sued the Moldovans claiming their defamation resulted in lost profits and a jury awarded the photographer $1,000,000.
While the verdict was for the defamation claim, the entire situation could have been avoided if the Moldovans had read their contract and abided by their obligations. Polito was quoted in the Washington Post saying, “[s]he basically didn’t read her paperwork or contract. She just couldn’t understand why she couldn’t have her high-res images. It’s in bold in our contract.”
There are two morals to this story. First, always read the entire contract you are a party to, especially any clauses or terms in bold, or get a lawyer to review it for you. Second, if you don’t read a contract, are surprised by the terms of it later, and have nasty things to say about the other side, it’s best to keep those comments behind closed doors instead of blasting the other party online. Following these guidelines could save you a lot of time and money in the future.
If you have a contract that you need assistance understanding or if your business regularly uses contracts and you’d like a lawyer to look over them, please give us a call at 704-457-1010 to set up a consultation.