12:02pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Storage Wars' Star David Hester Alleges Show Is Rigged in Lawsuit
Storage Wars star David Hester has filed a big new lawsuit against A&E Television Networks, contending that he was wrongfully terminated and that the high-rated series is rigged.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against A&E and producer Original Productions, Hester alleges, "A&E has committed a fraud on the public and its television audience in violation of the Communications Act of 1934, which makes it illegal for broadcasters to rig a contest of intellectual skill with the intent to deceive the viewing public."
Hester says that during the series featuring the auctioneering of contents based on a few minutes of inspection by buyers, A&E has planted items of memorabilia. Among the objects cited by Hester are a pile of old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis Presley in one episode and a BWM mini car in another.
He says he was fired after allegedly complaining to producers that A&E's "fraudulent conduct of salting and staging the storage lockers was possibly illegal." Hester adds that A&E purported to rescind its written exercise of an option retaining his services for the coming season.
The plaintiff contends that the defendants have no right to terminate his services under these circumstances and that the defendants' conduct has resulted in at least $750,000 in damages.
His claims are premised on the theory that corporations aren't allowed to terminate for acts that are an alleged violation of public policy. After several quiz show scandals in the 1950s, Congress passed an amendment to the Communications Act of 1934 to prevent people from fixing game shows, though it's debatable whether a reality series like Storage Wars applies.
Hester first was engaged by the series in 2010 in a written talent agreement where producers got five exclusive options to engage his services in future cycles of the series. His contract was picked up for two seasons after the original one.
In reaction to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for A&E says, "We don't comment [on] ongoing legal matters."
According to the suit, viewers have long questioned the authenticity of Storage Wars, where participants discover valuable items in abandoned storage units. The complaint quotes an old A&E press release that says: "There is no staging involved. The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show."
But Hester, who had been waging war with the network over trademarks even before Tuesday's lawsuit, says this is a "lie" -- that many of the scenes are staged, that interviews with cast members are scripted in advance and that producers have shot footage when no real auctions are taking place. Hester even says that the defendants have asked him to provide valuable items to be planted.
He is being represented by Martin Singer at Lavely & Singer.
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