Company claims reality star's case is 'meritless'
A&E Television Networks and Original Prods. are accusing “Storage Wars” star David Hester of trying to turn a “garden-variety breach of contract claim into tabloid worthy drama” as it seeks to dismiss his suit claiming that he was fired from the show for blowing the whistle on allegedly staged elements.In a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, A&E and Original said that he was cut from the program after he sought more favorable contract terms and they refused. “After AETN complained about plaintiff’s improper use of AETN’s trademarks, and concurrent with plaintiff’s demand to renegotiate his agreement to participate in the program, plaintiff suddenly raised ‘concerns’ about the program’s authenticity,” the producers said in their response. In their brief, A&E and Original cite California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which is designed to curb lawsuits filed as a way of squelching expression, as defendants are hobbled by the high cost of litigation. They also claim that Hester lacks standing to file his suit, as he filed an unfair business practices claim on behalf of the general public, and they said that he hasn’t shown that he suffered any actual injury. In a suit filed last month, Hester alleged that Original Prods. “regularly ‘salts’ the storage lockers …with valuable or unusual items to add dramatic effect.” He claimed that A&E has “committed a fraud on the public and its television audience in violation of the Communications Act of 1934,” which guards against gameshow rigging. A&E and Original, however, noted that the statute “does not apply to cable television.” They also say that even if it did, “Storage Wars’ does not fall within that category of quiz shows because it is not a contest of “chance,” “intellectual knowledge” or “intellectual skill.” They also rejected Hester’s claims that the show violated consumer protection statutes, claiming that he was attempting “to create a new class of consumer remedies based on purportedly ‘misleading’ television programs” that is “fundamentally inconsistent with federal and state constitutional rights, which do not permit liability to arise from protected speech unless it meets strict First Amendment tests.” A&E and Original said that Hester fell short in his claim that the show was manipulated — the issue that garnered the “tabloid” headlines. The burden, they said, is on Hester to prove it, yet he failed “to allege any facts to demonstrate malice, fraud despicable conduct or evil motive,” whether “by salting of lockers or otherwise.” Hester is represented by Martin Singer of Lavely & Singer. A&E is represented by Kelli Sager of Davis Wright Tremaine.