A&E and "Storage Wars" scored a partial victory Tuesday at a hearing for a lawsuit filed by former star Dave Hester, who claimed he was wrongfully terminated and that the reality show is staged.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson threw out Hester's unfair business practices claim, and ruled that his assertion of wrongful termination needs to be more specific.
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Hester was one of the professional buyers on the network's hit show "Storage Wars," a reality program that follows cast members as they bid against each other at public auctions of abandoned storage units throughout California.
He filed suit in December, seeking more than $750,000 in damages for wrongful termination, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, unfair business practices, and declaratory relief. He contends that "Storage Wars" producers regularly planted valuable items in the lockers, or sometimes even staged entire units. When he complained about the unethical practice to producers, he says he was fired.
"Nearly every aspect of 'Storage Wars' 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," Hester said in his 14-page complaint.
On Tuesday, Judge Johnson threw out Hester's unfair business practices complaint on First Amendment grounds. Hester's legal team argued that the show was violating the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits "influencing, prearranging, or predetermining outcomes" in "contests of knowledge, skill, or chance."
A&E claimed First Amendment protection, and the judge agreed.
"It is well settled that television broadcast involves free speech, as well as production activities that advance or assist in the creation of a television program," Johnson said in his ruling.
Hester's other claims weren’t addressed at the hearing.
A&E and "Storage Wars" have said that Hester is trying "to convert a garden-variety breach of contract claim into a tabloid-worthy drama, in which Hester portrays himself as a crusading whistleblower."
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