Challenging the Reality Behind Reality TV: A&E Faces Lawsuit Regarding Storage Wars Series
A recent lawsuit has brought into question how much of a reality television show can be scripted. The case is Hester v. Original Productions, LLC, currently pending in California state court.
The plaintiff, David Hester, appeared in the first two seasons of Storage Wars on A&E. That program follows a group of individuals that bid on the right to purchase abandoned storage lockers, with the hope that the lockers contain hidden treasures. Hester has sued the production company (Original Productions, LLC) and A&E, alleging that Storage Wars, which is marketed as a non-fiction reality program, is actually rigged. For example, the complaint alleges that the storage lockers were “salted” (i.e., planted) with extra valuable items to “create drama and suspense,” that the production company paid for plastic surgery for one of the cast members to increase her “sex appeal,” that the producers scheduled appraisals of valuable items in storage lockers several weeks before they were “discovered” by purchasers, that interviews with cast members were scripted in advance, that certain scenes were staged, and that the production company paid for some cast members’ storage lockers to “give the weaker cast members an advantage over the more experienced and successful bidders.” In short, Hester alleges that “nearly every aspect of the series is faked.”
According to Hester, he received a written letter from A&E stating that the network would retain him for another season of Storage Wars. However, Hester claims he was fired after he told network executives that he had concerns over the staging of storage lockers and requested indemnification in the event a third party challenged the staging process.
Hester alleges wrongful termination in violation of public policy, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unfair business practices, and declaratory relief. He seeks general damages of $750,000 to cover what he allegedly would have been paid had he starred in the next season of Storage Wars, as well as punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and an injunction barring the staging of storage lockers. It remains to be seen whether A&E and Original Productions will settle the case out of court to avoid further bad press and the disclosure of confidential information regarding the production and filming of the “reality” series. For more information on this case, please contact Anthony Lupo and Amy Salomon.