The former Windy City Rehab star Donovan Eckhardt has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against his former series for painting him as the show’s ‘villain.’
The reality star is asking for $2.2 million for defamation and emotional distress in the lawsuit filed in Illinois’s Cook County Circuit Court on Monday, People reports.
In his filing, Eckhardt claims that he was set up to look like the bad guy on the series thanks to alleged misleading editing, while his costar Alison Victoria, 39, was portrayed as his victim.
Fighting back: Former Windy City Rehab star Donovan Eckhardt (L) filed a $2.2 million lawsuit on Monday alleging that he was unfairly portrayed as a villain, according to People; still from Windy City Rehab
Eckhardt left Windy City Rehab in the midst of its second season following a major argument with Victoria over the cost of their renovation projects.
Prior to the on-screen blowup, Eckhardt had been threatened with a suspension of his license and the duo were beset by multiple work-stop orders issued by the city of Chicago.
They were also hit with two lawsuits from former clients who alleged they had done shoddy work.
According to Eckhardt, his portrayal on the series had a major financial impact on him, and he says his yearly income decreased from nearly $1.5 million to just over $250,000 as of 2020.
Defamed: Eckhardt claims the series used manipulative editing to create scenes suggesting he stole company funds and was a liar. He claims his income significantly impacted by the show; still from Windy City Reab
In his lawsuit filming, Eckhardt disputed many of the ways he claims he was portrayed on the series and says that scenes suggesting he misallocated the company’s funds were fabricated.
He also claimed that scenes showing his poor ability to communicate with Victoria and suggesting her was a liar were all the result of manipulative editing.
Eckhardt alleges that the lawsuit’s targets, Discovery Inc., which owns HGTV, and Big Table Media, the production company, were responsible for incurring the work-stop orders from the city.
As he tells it, he was ‘placed under constant pressure by Big Table Media to complete the projects being filmed for season one,’ and ‘aggressive filming and production deadlines’ led to the orders, along with problems coordinating construction and the loss of licenses and permits for the pair.
Rushed: Eckhardt says the network and production company pushed him and Alison Victoria (L) to work too fast, resulting in work-stop orders from Chicago; still from Windy City Rehab
Because of the pressure from the production company and the network, Eckhardt claims that he and Victoria ‘proceeded with certain work without obtaining approved amendments to necessary permits, without completed inspections, and ultimately received various building code citations which resulted in the temporary suspension of both of their respective licenses and privileges to apply for building permits.’
He says the show-stopping arguments seen in the second season were ‘carefully scripted, choreographed and edited.’
According to the developer, he was set up as ‘the villain and cause’ of all the pair’s problems, while Victoria was ‘the unknowing, innocent victim of all of the issues, which Alison allegedly encountered in Season 2 as well as Alison’s claimed financial ruin.’
The lawsuit alleges that Eckhardt ‘has suffered emotional injuries including anxiety, depression, diminished self-esteem, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate and embarrassment, and has been undergoing continuous counseling and behavioral treatment.’
Heroes and villains: Eckhardt says he was set up as ‘the villain and cause’ of the duo’s problems, while Victoria was ‘the unknowing, innocent victim’; still from Windy City Rehab
It also claims that Discovery Inc. and Big Table Media had undo influence over Eckhardt, and they ignored the fact that he was ‘prone to anxiety and vulnerable to emotional distress,’ despite allegedly being aware of his condition.
The filing claims the show’s airing did significant personal damage to Eckhardt, saying his portrayal was the ‘most embarrassing, humiliating and traumatic event’ he has ever faced.
The suit also alleges there was significant damage to both his ‘mental and physical health.’
As evidence, the filing lists cruel and threatening Instagram comments.
Ignored: The reality star also says the network and production company knew he was ‘prone to anxiety’ and ’emotional distress’ but pushed him regardless; still from Windy City Rehab