Many couples getting married choose to have a professional photographer capture images of their important day. Photographers, especially wedding photographers, are often very costly. Although justifiably so, because of this, there is a high expectation to perform.
When hiring a wedding photographer, there is usually some sort of contract involved which states the terms of the arrangement. Such a contract may or may not contain information regarding what to do if the wedding photographer fails to fulfill their duties.
How Can I Sue a Wedding Photographer?
Unfortunate circumstances could arise in which you do not receive the services promised to you by a wedding vendor, such as a photographer. If you are experiencing issues with your wedding photographer, and those issues have caused you some sort of loss or harm, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the photographer.
There are a few reasons why a wedding photographer may be sued. The most common reason is breach of contract. Simply put, a breach of contract occurs when one party to a legally valid contract fails to uphold their assigned duties and responsibilities. Breach of contract will be further discussed; in terms of wedding photographers, the most common breaches occur when the photographer does not provide the promised services, or does not deliver the entirety of the promised services.
Some specific examples of why a wedding photographer may be sued include, but are not limited to:
- Poor quality photos, to the extent that the court is willing to put themselves in the artist’s place;
- The wedding photographer not giving photos, or withholding photos from the couple;
- Lost photos, which results in the photographer having nothing to give the couple;
- Lack of photos, as in, the photographer took very few photos of the event;
- Delayed delivery of photos, such as failing to deliver the photos by the date specified in the contract;
- The photographer was late, or did not show up at all (no-show);
- The photographer canceled at the last minute; and/or
- The photographer used your photos in such a way that was unauthorized.
What Legal Options are Available to File a Lawsuit?
Any contract entered into should contain clear terms, and be in writing. Should any issues arise, the photographer may be held for a breach of contract, as previously mentioned. An example of this would be if the photographer was contractually obligated to provide eight hours of service, but only provided four hours of service. If you are successful in your breach of contract claim, you may be able to avoid paying the photographer. Or, you may be reimbursed (either fully or partially) for what you have already paid the photographer in the form of a damages award.
In order to be successful in a breach of contract claim, you will need to prove each of the following elements of proof:
- A contract existed, whether oral or written, between you and your photographer;
- The contract was breached in some way by the photographer; and
- Quantifiable damages resulted from the photographer breaching the contract.
If the contract was a written contract, as opposed to an oral contract, the terms of the contract should have detailed specific expectations. The number of photos provided, at what date the photos would be provided, and the amount of time spent photographing the event are some examples of common wedding photographer contract terms. This will serve to provide your case with as much evidence of a breach as possible. Additional forms of evidence could be witness statements and copies of communication between you and the photographer, such as emails or text messages.
Breach on contract is the most common legal option when filing a lawsuit against a wedding photographer. Other legal theories could include misrepresentation and fraud. A case involving a couple and their wedding photographer could be handled in small claims court. Small claims court tends to handle cases involving smaller amounts of money, between individuals, or an individual against a business. Although the amount of damages that may be sought after in a small claims court case will vary based on jurisdiction, it is generally between $1,000 and $5,000.
Are There Any Potential Defenses to a Breach of Contract Claim?
Once the lawsuit proceeds to court, the photographer will have the chance to defend themselves against your claim. Some commonly utilized defenses include but may not be limited to:
- No Contract Was in Place: If no evidence of a contract exists, or there was never a contract to begin with, the photographer may use that as a defense. That is why it is imperative to have a clearly written contract in place before moving forward. Oral contracts are much harder to prove in court than written contracts;
- Act of God: An “Act of God” prevented the photographer from performing the services as agreed upon in the contract. This refers to a natural disaster outside of the photographer’s control; there will likely be an “Act of God” clause in the contract in which you will agree not to hold the photographer liable if such an act occurs. An example of this would be if the photographer was snowed in and could not reasonably travel to the wedding. However, if there was a fire in your photographer’s studio which destroyed some or all of your photos, you could possibly recover partial damages; and/or
- The Statute of Limitations Has Run Out: Some states maintain a statute which limits the amount of time after the fact in which a person may file a lawsuit. If the photographer can prove that the statute of limitations has run out, generally one year, the lawsuit will likely be unsuccessful.
Should I Contact an Attorney Regarding Issues with My Wedding Photographer?
If you are needing to sue your wedding photographer, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable business attorney. An experienced business attorney can review the contract and determine which legal theory may best be applied to your particular situation. Additionally, an attorney can inform you of your rights and the laws and statutes of your state that may apply to your case. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in court, as needed.