Family gets $550,000 verdict for harassment by photographer

WHEELING -- An Ohio County jury ruled that a Charleston wedding photographer stalked and harassed a Parkersburg couple for a year and half after their wedding.

John and Kerri Vickers were awarded a $550,000 verdict in their case against Ted Elden and his company Elden Associates on Nov. 28 by an Ohio Circuit Court jury. John Vickers' mother and stepfather, Jim and Connie Murray of Wheeling, also were involved in the case.

Christopher Regan, an attorney with Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling, said Elden mailed cut-up photo negatives to the Vickers and the Murrays as well as other members of their families.

"The circumstances were like nothing you've ever seen before," Regan said. "The harassment would not stop. There were 18 to 20 mailings."

Regan said Elden also scribbled out the faces on photos and mailed shattered photo CDs to the plaintiff's homes.

"Several mailings by Elden were times to coincide with holidays such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day," Regan said. "One came just after the death of the bride's grandmother.

"The mailings continued despite repeated requests by the Vickers and the Murrays to Elden to stop sending vandalized pictures to their homes."

Regan said that Elden, like many wedding photographers, sold the Vickers a photo package, but retained the negatives. Customers could later buy more photos from the photographer if they wished. Some photographers also allow customers to purchase the negatives or photo CDs containing all of the images.

"It was his way of saying, 'Buy these or they'll be gone,'" Regan said.

Regan said Elden and his company, which does business as Elden Photo, took photographs of the Vickers' wedding in 2000 and was paid in full that year.

But in 2001, Elden began the mailings.

"Dozens of mailings were sent of an increasingly threatening and disturbing nature, including at one point, some of Elden's original poetry about wildlife as well as copious amounts of defaced and destroyed photos," Regan said.

Elden testified on his own behalf that he had a right to destroy the pictures and that doing so was intended to let the Vickers and Murrays know he was "clearing his file."

"Now, he refuses to pay," Regan said of Elden. "He thinks of himself as a great artist for doing this."

The jury verdict included $400,000 in punitive damages.

"A rogue photographer emotionally tormented this family for over a year to try to get them to buy more photos," Regan said. "His calculated and relentless efforts to harass this family certainly outraged the jury, as it did most anyone who heard the facts of the case.

"The jury's verdict makes it clear that it is not acceptable to treat people this way in West Virginia."

The jury heard testimony for three days from the plaintiffs and their friends. Dick Cress of Wheeling testified as an expert in photography, and Ann McGeary testifed as a counseling expert.

The plaintiffs also were represented by Jamie Bordas and Geoff Brown, also partners with Bordas & Bordas. Elden was represented by Wheeling attorney Rich Beaver.

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