Dave Hester can move forward with the wrongful termination portion of his wide-ranging lawsuit against A&E and the producers of Storage Wars, a judge ruled today. In a hearing Tuesday in LA Superior Court, Judge Michael Johnson rejected the network’s free speech related attempt to dismiss the wrongful termination aspect of the former reality cast member’s nearly 10 month old legal action. Citing the First Amendment and California’s anti-SLAPP statute, A&E had argued that Hester’s suit would effectively hand him control over who they could put on the hit reality show. Johnson didn’t agree. “Plaintiff’s contract expressly states that Defendants had no obligation to use Plaintiff on the program during the term of their agreement. Plaintiff is suing to recover money, and not to inject himself into the program,” wrote Johnson in a tentative ruling issued before this morning’s hearing. Hester sued A&E and Storage Wars’ producers Original Productions back in December 2012. At the time he called the show a staged “fraud on the public” and claimed he was suddenly kicked off the storage locker auction series before the fourth season when he complained about their methods. Hester is seeking over $750,000 plus punitive damages that could add up to millions more. The judge today also rejected A&E’s motions to dismiss the punitive damages. The first round of the case went A&E’s way when Johnson threw out the unfair business practices claims of the former series star’s suit against the network and the producers on March 12. That loss for Hester lead to Judge Johnson ordering him to pay a $122,692 portion of the defendants’ legal fees. Johnson also agreed in March with A&E and Original that their First Amendment rights would be violated if the court were to let to Hester’s attorneys’ request for an injunction against Storage Wars for the alleged staging of the show. Marty Singer and Hester’s other lawyer Allison Heart of Lavely & Singer have now removed that request from the suit in an amended complaint. A&E and Original Productions are represented by Kelli Sager, John LeCrone and Michelle Bussarakum of LA firm Davis Wright Tremaine. Storage Wars returned for a fourth season on April 16 – without Hester.
A&E announced today that Storage Wars and American Hoggers will be back next month for new seasons. Storage Wars, the abandoned locker bidding series, returns for a fourth season with back-to-back episodes April 16 at 9 PM and 9:30 PM. A big hit for A&E, Storage Wars was the network’s top show last year among adults 18-49 and the third-most-popular non-fiction show on cable adults 25-54. Its Season 3 averaged 4.2 million total viewers. American Hoggers is also back April 16 with dual episodes. Returning for a third season of hog hunter Jerry Campbell and his Texas family, the series will air back-to-back new shows at 10 PM and 10:30 PM.
Round 1 of the Storage Wars legal battle looks to have gone to A&E. In a hearing today, a judge threw out the unfair business practices claims of the series former star Dave Hester’s wide-ranging lawsuit against the network and producers of the reality show. LA Superior Court judge Michael Johnson ruled that the claim fell short under California’s anti-SLAPP law. The Judge also sided with the defendants that their First Amendment rights would be violated if he were to agree to Hester’s attorneys’ request for an injunction against Storage Wars for alleged staging of the show.
A&E had requested that the unfair business practices claim be striped from the five-claim suit and their Constitutional rights affirmed in their January 28 response to Hester’s initial December 11 complaint. Johnson told the downtown hearing that in granting the requested injunction he would essentially be telling A&E what they could and could not programming on their network, something he did not agree was right or warranted. Additionally, he demanded more information on the wrongful termination aspect of Hester’s complaint for the suit to progress in the courts. Hester and his lawyer Marty Singer now have 20 days to amend their initial complaint.
Storage Wars star Dave Hester today sued A&E and the producers of the reality show, calling it a staged “fraud on the public”. Represented by attorney Marty Singer in his suit (read it here), Hester is seeking more than $750,000 in damages and fees from the network and Original Productions for their actions and for firing him from the show. “When Plaintiff David Hester (“Hester”) complained to producers that A&E’s fraudulent conduct of salting and staging the storage lockers was possibly illegal, he was fired from the Series. As further evidence of Defendants’ outrageous conduct, they purported to rescind their written exercise of an option retaining Hester’s services this coming season,” says the 14-page complaint, which is suing for wrongful termination, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, unfair business practices and declaratory relief.
Reality shows are often accused of sleight-of-hand manipulation of events, contestants and other participants, but Hester’s suit tarnishes Storage Wars almost from top to bottom. “Nearly every aspect of the Series is faked, even down to the plastic surgery that one of the female cast members underwent in order to create more “sex appeal” for the show, the cost of which was paid for by Original,” the suit claims. “Original regularly ‘salts’ the storage lockers that are the subject of the auctions portrayed on the Series with valuable or unusual items to add dramatic effect, even going so far as to stage entire storage units. Original also manipulates the outcome of certain auctions by paying for storage units on behalf of the weaker cast members who lack the both the skill and financial wherewithal to place winning bids,” it adds. Hester is seeking a jury trial.
EXCLUSIVE: A&E Network in staying on the “war”path. The cable network has ordered new 26-episode seasons of its flagship series Storage Wars and hot freshmen Storage Wars: Texas and Shipping Wars. All three will launch this summer. The season 2 premiere of Storage Wars last summer became the A&E’s most watched series telecast of all time with 5.1 million total viewers and the highest-rated in adults 18-49 and 25-54 with 2.9 million viewers in each demo. The series’ second season averaged 4.7 million total viewers, up 68% from Season 1, with Storage Wars ranking as A&E’s No.1 series of all time and the No. 3 non-fiction show on cable among adults 25-54. Spinoff Storage Wars: Texas premiered this past December with 4.1 million total viewers and 2.1 million adults 25-54 for the most-watched original series launch in the network’s history in both categories. A month later, Shipping Wars debuted to solid 3 million total viewers.