A&E’s Storage Wars sued by one of its stars


A&E NetworkDave Hester has filed a $5M lawsuit in California against Storage Wars and its producer and Original Productions, RadarOnline.com reported. Storage Wars, of course, is the reality series on A&E that premiered in 2010 featuring the auctioneering couple of Dan Dotson and Laura Dotson, as well as buyers Hester, Darrell and Brandon Sheets, Barry Weiss, and the team of Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante.

Hester, infamous for his brash “Yuuup” while bidding on storage lockers, charges that the A&E show is fake and fired him in retaliation days after he complained about it to network and production company executives.

A&E has previously defended as the show as 100% real and not staged.

Radar broke the story that the reality TV show picked up Hester’s contract option and then rescinded it for season four. Now, in the suit filed by LA attorney Marty Singer, the show is accused of illegal activity and an ongoing pattern of deceiving the public.

The suit contains numerous claims, including that that the network and Original Productions regularly “salt” lockers with valuable items to add drama to the show, rig the bidding and even paid for a female cast member’s plastic surgery to add sex appeal.

On Sept. 6, Hester and some other cast members met with Neil Cohen, A&E’s SVP/talent & production to express their concerns about this alleged practice. In the meeting Hester complained “that he believed that it was illegal for Defendants to continue to salt the storage units,” the suit alleges. “The other cast members present agreed with Hester that Defendants’ conduct was inappropriate and possibly illegal.”

After that meeting Hester and the rest of cast met with Cohen, Jeff Bumgarner, the series producer, Ernest Avila, the production company’s EVP/business and legal affairs. The issue of “salting” units again was discussed and according to the suit, “Bumgarner got angry and didn’t want to hear anything more about [it]. Cohen admitted he was aware of the salting issue but didn’t know the extent, as described by Hester. Avila identified two AETN executive who he indicated knew the scope of the salting issue and who had been aware that the storage units were salted from the beginning of the series.”

The end for Hester began on 9/18 when his entertainment attorney Stephen Barnes sent a letter to Avila requesting the star be indemnified by the show for any third party claims regarding “the authenticity of the auction process and the Series.”

According to the suit, “Defendants response to this request was to fire Hester from the Series.” Avila sent Hester a letter on 10/1 rescinding exercise of his option for Cycle 4. “Avila’s letter cited Barnes 9/12 letter in which ‘Barnes had requested, among other things, that Defendants indemnify Hester,’” the suit charges.

Here are some of the specific charges:

— Producers staged entire units and enlisted the cooperation of owners of storage facilities to do so.

— The show pays for storage lockers for “weaker” cast members as part of the manipulation

— The show plants items in lockers after having them appraised weeks in advance

— The show obtains items to be placed in the units from a business regularly featured on air

An A&E spokesperson told Radar: “We do not know about a lawsuit being filed and we do not comment on pending or threatened litigation.”

See the RadarOnline story here

RBR-TVBR observation: Many of these so-called “reality shows” are staged—but they show a liner mentioning it just before the show starts. Do you think a production such as “Operation Repo” could possibly get insurance from any company when these folks are going out and repo-ing cars from owners pointing guns at them, throwing things at them and fighting? Ain’t happening, but it’s entertaining and gets ratings. Storage Wars is liable on some levels here and this will create a precedent for any other reality shows not mentioning some of the scenes are staged.