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In the news: Vaping partners (one of them a lawyer) personally liable for stiffing photographer they’d hired

A business lawyer and his business partner started a “vaping” wholesale busi­ness. The lawyer orally hired a photographer at $800 per day to take pictures of e-cigarette hardware, supplies, and liquids — but then the vaping company didn’t pay the photographer’s $2,400 invoice; instead, the partners asked the photographer to reduce his price in return for the promise of more work in the future. (The photographer declined their offer.) The state supreme court upheld a judgment that the lawyer was personally liable for the $2,400, on grounds that the lawyer hadn’t disclosed that he was acting as agent for his com­pa­ny. Thomas Grady Photography, Inc. v. Amazing Vapor, Ltd., No. S-17-818 (Neb. Oct. 26, 2018).

Possible lessons:

  • Some parties will try to re-trade a deal (that’s putting it politely); it’s not uncommon for first-time customers or -clients to try the gambit, “I know we agreed to pay you $X, but if you’ll reduce the price now, we’ll give you more business in the future.”

(I’m probably dating myself, but Wimpy’s famous phrase from the Popeye cartoons comes to mind:  I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.)

  • The photographer might have helped his case if he’d sent the customer even a bare-bones advance email confirmation that set forth: (i) what the photographer was going to do, and (ii) what the cost would be.
  • It’s interesting that the lawyer-vaping partner, faced with personal liability, elected to take the case to trial and then all the way to the state supreme court. The supreme court’s opinion doesn’t shed any light on why the lawyer didn’t just pay the photographer’s $2,400 invoice.
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