Columbia, MD asked in Libel & Slander and Business Law for Maryland

Q: Hi there,I am a wedding photographer. On the day of a wedding I was suppose to shoot my husband and I were mugged.

We were taken to the hospital. My phone was one of the items stolen. I was not able to make it to the wedding or able to reach out to the couple until the next day. I agreed to pay the couple back in full due to the situation. The couple then went on every platform they could and wrote terrible reviews about me. 3 of my clients seen the reviews and contacted the couple. The couple is trying to stir my clients away from working with me saying I can not be trusted and that I want come to their wedding. I am wondering is I have a legal stand point to stop these people from speaking with my clients and harming my business. I have lost 2 of my clients over it so far.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Although truth is a defense to a claim of defamation, it is unclear what else your unhappy clients are telling people that might be actionable from a libel/defamation standpoint. There is also a basis to sue for “tortious interference with contractual business relations” if the disgruntled clients are directly contacting and driving off your customers.

The fact remains, on the most important day of their lives, you let them down and cost them the photographic memories of their wedding. That’s a once in a lifetime event that can’t be recreated. Ever. A refund and an apology in this scenario isn’t enough. When you’re in an event planning business, you need to have contingency arrangements and a means to at least contact your clients to allow them the option or opportunity to get a last minute replacement, at the very least, but you should have had a back-up photographer lined up for emergencies. Tragic unexpected events happen, but as a business owner you need to plan for these circumstances in advance. You chose to be a wedding photographer. Not showing up, regardless of how “good” the reason, is never an option. There may be insurance coverage you can purchase to reimburse you for such emergency backup plans.

I know it’s too late to hear that now, but in any legal action you bring the couple will make these arguments and may very well counter-sue for “ruining” their wedding memories. I suppose you could have a lawyer send a letter, but you may just stir the pot and trigger them to retain their own lawyer to sue. You risk even more bad publicity from this. You may be better off retaining a public relations professional who can manage damage control from this incident. Perhaps there is something you can do to appease these people, like offering free professional photo shoots or even recreate some wedding shots in their tux and wedding dress. Hopefully you already made a heartfelt apology, but maybe they are too upset to accept it. Unfortunately, I do not see legal action on your part making things better for your business.

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