Can I Sue My Wedding Photographer?
I get this questions quite often. Too often, really. Unfortunately, the threat of a lawsuit by an angry client is real. With websites like LegalZoom providing the gun-powder for the legal do-it-yourselfers, the potential is out there. Here are three common lawsuits that are brought against wedding photographers.
Breach of Contract
Out of all the claims that are brought against wedding photographers, this one is the most common. A breach of contract to a wedding photography agreement occurs where the wedding photographer either doesn’t provide the services promised, or fails to deliver the entirety of the services promised. The more successful lawsuits against wedding photographers are those in which the photographer didn’t show, failed to capture the entire event, or lost photos after the fact (‘doh!). The less successful lawsuits involve the allegation that the actual photos were substandard (Generally, Courts will not put themselves in the place of the artist, unless they appear crappy to a layman). If the Bride/Groom is successful in such a lawsuit, the Court will award ‘expectation damages.’ Expectation damages will be computed as placing the Bride/Groom in the position that they would have been had the photographer not breached. For example, let’s say the photographer promised to provide a Picture Album of 25 HD, edited images, and the contract itemizes this portion of the contract as $500. In the event that the photographer fails to produce this, the expectation damages would be $500. Or, alternatively, the cost that the Bride/Groom incurs to get another photographer to complete that part of the contract. Let’s say that it cost them $700 to get someone else to do it? Then the expectation damages are now $700.
Misrepresentation is a claim that the photographer intentionally misstated (or omitted) a material term of the contract, strictly for the purposes of getting the Bride or Groom to sign the contract. For example, I took part in a case (representing the Bride) in which the photographer stated that he belonged to a particular international guild, and that he had performed a particular type of photography for different celebrities in the past. When the photographer failed to provide the pictures as promised, and in a manner not in line with those representations, the Bride sued. As we found out later, and as we presented in Court, none of those claims were true. Misrepresentation is a ‘intentional tort.’ So what does that mean? Well, if successfully proven, the Bride can request ‘general damages,’ the legal term for ‘pain and suffering.’ Ouch!
Misappropriation is when the photographer makes use of an image containing likeness of a person that has not provided the appropriate authorization. This type of claim is most often brought by celebrities, or others that have ‘good will’ associated with their image. However, some states, like New York, have a statute that basically makes this claim available to the masses. In these types of cases, the Bride/Groom can seek the revenue or monetary value of the photographer’s use of the image.