Weddings are a time when you want everything to go according to plan, especially with something as big as your wedding photos. Unfortunately, things happen and sometimes you will not receive the services that were promised to you by a wedding vendor. If you are unsatisfied with your wedding photography experiences or results, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against your photographer.
Common issues that people have experienced include:
- Poor quality photos;
- Lack of photos;
- Delayed or non-delivery of photos;
- Late or no-show of photographer;
- Last minute cancelation by the photographer; and
- Unauthorized use of your photos.
When you hire a wedding photographer, you should have entered into a contract for services. Hopefully, this was in writing and contained clear terms. If you have not hired a wedding photographer yet, make sure to get a formal contract in writing in case any issues arise down the road.
The best theory to sue your wedding photographer under is a “breach of contract” theory. A breach of contract can occur if your photographer did not perform the terms of the contract that were agreed upon.
For example, say one term was that the photographer was supposed to provide 8 hours of service, but they only provided 4 hours or service to you. If you are successful in your claim for breach of contract, you may be able to avoid paying your photographer or you may be able to get all or part of your money back.
To be successful in a breach of contract case, you need to prove the following elements:
- There was a contract, either written or oral, between you and your photographer;
- The contract was breached by the photographer; and
- Damages resulted from the breach of contract.
If you have the written contract, then the terms of the contract will govern, such as the number of photographs you get and the rights to the negatives. In general, you want to build up your case with as much relevant evidence as possible. Any witnesses, original photographs, and communication records (i.e. telephone calls and emails) with your photographer will be useful in court.
Keep in mind that while breach of contract is the most common avenue for litigation, there may be some other legal theories you may be able to sue your photographer under. These can include legal theories like misrepresentation and fraud.
After you file a lawsuit against your photographer, the matter will proceed to court if the judge finds that a case exists. The photographer will then have an opportunity to raise some defenses to your claim. This could include the following defenses:
- There was no contract in place. Having any written communication will greatly help defeat this defense. Oral contracts are harder to prove;
- An act of God, prevented the photographer from performing the agreed upon services according to the contract. An “act of God” is a natural disaster beyond anyone’s control. There will likely always be an act of God clause in your contract with a wedding photographer agreeing not to hold them liable if this occurs and you do not receive the services as promised;
- For example, if your photographer was snowed in and could not reasonably travel to your wedding, then you cannot sue him for damages that resulted in not having any pictures of your wedding day.
- However, if a small fire in your photographer’s studio destroyed some of your pictures, then you may be able to recover partial damages; and
- The statute of limitations has run out. Depending on the state you live in and the type of claims you want to bring, you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. In general, you will have at least one year to file a lawsuit against your photographer. As such, you should make sure to file a lawsuit as soon as possible if you think you have a case.
If any defenses may apply, you might not want to file a lawsuit. However, if the defense does not have a strong chance of holding up in court, it will probably be worth the risk to move forward with your lawsuit. If a defense is successful, your case will likely be dismissed by the judge.
If you want to sue your wedding photographer, you should contact a business attorney to help you with your case. An attorney can review your situation, assess your damages and determine whether you can bring a legal claim against your wedding photographer. If you have a valid claim, an attorney can help you determine whether to file your case in small claims or in civil court. An attorney can also advise you of any potential defenses your photographer may have to your claims.