Legal Advice

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by trahart, Aug 31, 2010.

  1. trahart

    trahart TPF Noob!

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    Hi, everyone! I had a studio opened up for 5 years. My husband up and left without telling me he was leaving so in a year's time I had to close my studio and get a "regular" job - normal hours/pay - to support myself and 2 year old. I never had a single issue when I was in business. I was an LLC and did portraits/weddings. When I closed the business, I began encountering numerous problems with people that wanted to order more pictures or had put off and put off ordering b/c of financial situations they couldn't afford them. I fulfilled all wedding contracts. Because I was closing, I stopped booking any weddings. I had one client that I had done senior pictures, prom pictures, beach pictures for several times that was getting married. It was a tiny, little ceremony. Because I was closing, I told her that she could hire me to do the pictures for $500 (my normal wedding packages started at $1700 and went up to $5000) only because she was a special client and I would give her a small album of 4x6 prints. She didn't want the 4x6 prints but wanted a c.d. so she could have a storybook album designed. ONLY because I wanted to do her wedding, I agreed. I looked at this as a work for hire situation where the pictures were not mine. ..they belonged to her. I took the pictures and gave them to her on a disc. We had no wedding contract for this because I was under the impression there was no product. Essentially, she was paying me a session fee and I gave her the disc. No problems whatsoever. Until last October...a little over a year since her wedding and a year since my studio closed. She calls and tells me that her mother lost the wedding disc and she needs another one. Since I delete files off of my hard drive after a year, I did not have them on my computer. I tell her that I will have to go through discs and see if I can locate them and I'd be more than happy to burn her another disc. I loaded the discs with her names on them and have her beach, senior, and prom pictures but no wedding pictures... She calls several weeks later and I tell her that I no longer have them, that I'm sorry...I'd keep looking just to make sure they weren't out of place, etc.. During this time I get pregnant with a very high risk situation and I'm sick as a dog. She calls and my husband informs her that I am no longer looking for them because of my health situation and gets her email, that we'll email her if we find anything. She's calling at all hours of the night and day at this point. She stops calling me as much and when she does, I don't answer. She then finds out who my mother is and starts harrassing her about them. My mother has nada clue anything about my business and gets extremely upset over being harrassed by this girl. She's completely off her rocker at this point threatening to take me to court if she has to, that she WILL get her pictures from me no matter what, that I don't know who I'm messing with ?!?! Crazy. My mother finally gets her to stop calling by telling her that I'm pregnant and sick, she can just wait and talk to me after the baby gets here when I can actually get out of bed. As soon as this past June arrives (my due date was June 23rd), she starts calling again....11 at night, 5 in the morning, all day during the day...back to back to back. I've told her again that I'm sorry, but I gave her the disc, I'm under no further obligation, I'm very sorry that her mother lost it but there's nothing I can do. So, yesterday, August 30th, I am delivered papers by a deputy sheriff for complaint of trover. The girl is stating that i have her property and won't give it to her. On top of the disc, she's now claiming that I owe her an album of 800 4x6 prints at a value of $500. Completely absurd. I called the court and asked them just how exactly was I supposed to PROVE that I didn't have her "property". She tells me receipts, etc...??? I have a text message from her mother in law wanting to buy another disc from me because the girl's mother lost hers. But we have no wedding contract or anything? She's saying that she has proof by an email I sent saying that I could do her wedding for $500 and give her an album of 4x6s but this is where I was proposing what I would do for her. That email also states that I'm sorry she misunderstood information I gave her about her wedding, because she went away that day thinking she was getting a storybook album and me taking her pictures for $500. This was me saying that I'm sorry she misunderstood me but it was not a storybook, but essentially a "proof" book of about 50-75 images.

    My question is...well, I don't really know what my question is...

    Is there anything I can provide as "proof"? Or is there being no wedding contract sufficient? Or is there being no wedding contract going to bite me in the @$$?

    I have called several close friends and family members that I did their weddings for $500 and they got a disc that are writing letters on my behalf saying that they hired me to take the photos, they paid $500, and I released images on disc.

    Also, when I did her wedding, my business was an LLC. Will this protect me from having to repay the money out of my pocket? But the business has been closed almost 2 years now?

    And third, is there "law" about keeping photos that you have released rights to?

    Thank you for your help! I really appreciate any feedback, suggestions I can get. And, trust me, I did know better than to do anything without a contract ...stupid mistake on my part so please do not beat me up for that.
     
  2. Mustlovedragons

    Mustlovedragons TPF Noob!

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    If they don't have the pix and you have no contract and her only "proof" is an email stating what your charges are then how can she even prove you did the wedding? Having taken it up the tailpipe a few times in what I would have THOUGHT would be a cut-and-dried no-brainer, I suggest getting an attorney consultation. They often do them for free.
     
  3. Peanuts

    Peanuts TPF Noob!

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    Well. You not having a contract is going to bite you in the rear but it also doesn't help her. In my books, no contract no dice for her or you. I think this may play better in your hands though. Do you have any written 'evidence' that she was asking for just the CD?

    Edit: yes.. get a professional opinion
     
  4. KillerKowalski

    KillerKowalski TPF Noob!

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    Please, for the ease of reading, divide the paragraph into multiple ones. I understand the stress you are in right now.

    First, I am not an attorney, but you should contact one immediately. I have seen a similar situation on the board in the past. Verbal and non-verbal contracts are still binding when the elements are met by both parties. You have to save the e-mail from the mother-in-law, which should be submitted in civil court as evidence. It will help. As what the other poster stated, it will be proved that you photographed the wedding. Duh! Other witnesses saw you with a camera on the day she got married.

    One thing you mentioned that bothers me a lot, is the phone calls to you and your mother. Working in law enforcement, I am not fond of those kind of behaviors. A suggestion, (in IL) there are civil no contact orders that can be obtained. Also, you should be answering every call from her and immediately hang up. The call then is documented on phone records that can be used in your civil suit. The frequency and the times she is calling in itself could be ruled as phone harassment regardless of what she is stating. It will help to have your mother join you in court as a witness to the phone calls.
     
  5. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo TPF Noob!

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    This is a photo forum.

    You need Legal advice.

    Please do not rely on what some strangers post on an Internet forum. Please do get professional legal advice.
     
  6. trahart

    trahart TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the replies. I have contacted (2) lawyers that both have differing opinions. My main objective for posting this was seeing if anyone else had been in the situation or if anyone could give me a perspective on things that I wasn't seeing.

    The no contract thing - I know that was dumb but my thinking was essentially it's a session fee type situation since she was paying me to take the pictures, not getting a product. I've never done c.d.s of pictures for people so I wasn't thinking of it as them purchasing a c.d.

    The phone calls we did look into for harrassment. But here in Georgia I was told the only thing I could do was place a restraining order. To do that I would have to go to court. And seriously, this is only $500.

    And I do apologize for the paragraph. When I typed it, it was divided. I'm not sure what happened when it posted because the preview showed it correctly. Sorry!

    Thank you everyone for feedback!
     
  7. njw1224

    njw1224 TPF Noob!

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    There is no law about you having to keep images after you've given the client what you "promised". I know you already have lawyers on retainer, but my opinion is that you're in good shape. Emails are not contracts (no signatures, etc.). And unless your email says that "in return for $500, I will give you a proof album of 4x6 prints..." you should be good. Also the fact that she had the disc for a year then lost it works in your favor. She could have copied the disk, made prints from it, any other number of things to do as backup. I personally couldn't see a court awarding her damages since she lost the disc and has no contract with you.
     

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