Photographer ordered to pay $22K after failing to deliver wedding photos more than 6 years later
B.C. judge says she found photographer's testimony 'slippery'
A wedding photographer has been forced to pay more than $22,000 after failing to live up to his end of the contract more than six years after a wedding.
Ruling in the Provincial Court of B.C. in Surrey, Judge Valliammai Chettiar found that the photographer, Aman Bal, breached his contract and offered troubling, often confusing testimony throughout.
"In my view, none of Mr. Bal's explanations is tenable. They can only be characterized as lame excuses. He seemed to be literally making up these excuses in the spur of the moment on the stand," wrote Chettiar, in her reasons for judgement.
And she found his actions negatively impacted the claimant's wedding, which Chettiar noted is a significant event in South Asian culture.
"Their marriage was a one-time life event," she wrote.
Photographer's 'troubling' testimony
Kaman and Ramandeep Rai hired Bal and his company, Elite Images, to provide photography and videography services for their June 2015 wedding for $8,500.
Bal had been a professional photographer for 15 to 20 years, according to the documents. And he often worked for music videos, fashion shows, as well as weddings.
The photographer was contracted to supply photo albums, thank you cards, digital guest books, metallic prints, Blu-ray disks, and a DVD of all the pictures taken.
But more than six years after the wedding, the couple were still waiting.
As well, he had irreplaceable childhood photos of the couple.
Throughout the proceedings, the couple provided evidence that they continually reached out to Bal who was supposed to deliver on the contract one year following the wedding, at most.
The judge noted the evidence showed Bal often failed to respond to the couple and when he did, he would say that everything was nearly finished.
"Essentially, he strung the Rais along for more than three years, leading them to believe that they would get the products imminently," wrote Chettiar.
Three years after the wedding, and in response to one of the many messages the couple sent to Bal, he wrote that he no longer works for Elite Images and he said other employees at a different company were working on it. But he wouldn't clarify which company it was, who the employees were, or when the couple would receive their photos and videos.
Judge rejects defence arguments
In his defence, Bal claimed he didn't deliver the final products because the couple still owed him $3,500 and refused to pay it despite repeated requests. But, the judge did not accept his reasoning.
"There is not a shred of evidence to support this assertion," she wrote.
And this wasn't an isolated incident. At least five other legal actions have been brought against Bal since 2011.
"All of the evidence in this case, including Mr. Bal's slippery testimony, leads me to the inescapable inference that Mr. Bal's behaviour is almost a modus operandi for Mr. Bal's business — a pattern of deceitful behaviour that frustrates innocent people to the extreme that they just give up and walk away with whatever they can get back from Mr. Bal," wrote Chettiar.
"Obviously, that did not happen."
Bal and his counsel also tried to argue that Bal wasn't to be held responsible because the Rais contracted with his corporation, Elite Images Ltd, and not Bal personally.
That defence was also thrown out as the contract stated Elite Images, or sometimes Elite Images Videography and Photography. However, it never stated Elite Images Ltd.
Overall, Chettiar found Bal unreliable as a witness.
"Needless to say, Mr. Bal's testimony was troubling in many respects," she wrote.
"Most troubling was his readiness to come up with some narrative, without any foundation or documentary support."
Breach of contract
Despite an offer on the first day of trial to return the childhood photos and work with the couple to deliver the agreed-upon package, they declined.
Instead, the judge found Bal breached his contract.
Bal was ordered to pay $7,000 to replace the items he failed to deliver, $5,000 for punitive damages, $10,000 for mental distress, and $236 for court fees.