Assistant photographer to sue wedding photographer for breach of contract

Question (from Michigan):

“A friend of mine, promised me a gig for wedding photography to do with him, I got three days off of work to do this with him.: He promised 300$ for the three days of work (was to be paid on the spot), but eventually told me the family decided to back out, but he would still receive 500 for the deposit. Promised me half of it. Now two weeks has gone by with no attempt to reach me and ignoring my attempts to reach him and says its not my fault I need the money. Can I sue him for the 250? furthermore can he legally wait til he receives the 500 from the family to pay me if he has the money?”

Response (from Attorney Rob):

I assume from this question that the date of the cancelled wedding is still in the future.

Based on the information that you have provided, it looks like you entered into an oral contract with the Wedding Photographer. You promised to make yourself available for the three day wedding and assist the Wedding Photographer with the shoot. In exchange, the Wedding Photographer promised to pay you $300 on the date of the Wedding.

Just because the family backed out of the wedding does not mean that the Wedding Photographer is off the hook to pay you for the $300. However, based on how it seems to me that the agreement is laid out, he may have a solid argument that he is not obligated to pay you until the date that the wedding was scheduled (despite getting his hands on the deposit prior). Even if the wedding had gone on as scheduled, you would not have received the money until then any way. In other words, he has no obligation to deliver the money until the date of the event, despite the wedding being cancelled.

I think that you will not have a real cause of action (lawsuit) for breach of contract until the Wedding Photographer a) straight-up tells you that he is not going to pay you at all, no matter what, or b) the date of the cancelled wedding comes and goes and he doesn’t pay you . In the event that this date has already come and gone, then you may certainly move forward with the suit for breach of contract.

You will not be entitled for both the three days of work that you missed AND the $300. You will be entitled to be placed in a position you would have been had the Wedding Photographer not breached the agreement (you have $300 in your pocket).

I am not licensed in Michigan, but I assume that you have small claims courts there. Go to the county that the Wedding Photographer resides, and fill out the paperwork. You may find that the hassle of a lawsuit outweighs the benefit of getting a $300 judgment.

Good luck!

Moral of the Story: The obligations between the assistant photographer and the principal photographer should always be laid out in writing.