Dave Hester filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against A&E Television Networks and Original Producers, the producers of Storage Wars, today after months of turmoil over his contract and the alleged “salting” of storage units won my cast members. The suit alleges that after Hester asked for indemnity from the alleged fraudulent manipulation of the storage units to producers, they fired him — which he claims is a breach of contract. In addition to the “salting” of lockers with unique and interesting items, Hester claims producers rig the bidding for dramatic effect, repay an antiques business for items used to salt lockers by featuring them on the show for appraisals, and even paid for a female cast member’s plastic surgery to add sex appeal!
Here is a bullet point list of some of the major allegations brought up in the suit, which was filed by top L.A. attorney Marty Singer:
• In the first season of the show Dave Hester was asked to provide items to salt his lockers with, which he reluctantly agreed to do
• Producers paid for a female cast member to have plastic surgery “in order to create more ‘sex appeal’ for the show” (The female cast member in question is unnamed, but the only two female cast members that I know of on the show are Brandi Passante and Laura Dotson. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t tell me Brandi Passante has had a boob job!)
• Producers stage entire units with the help of the owners of the storage facilities
• The show foots the bill for lockers for “weaker” cast members in order to even out the playing field
• The show finds valuable items to plant in lockers after having them appraised in advance
• The show gets some of its valuable items from a business (Off The Wall Antiques, seen below) which is regularly featured on the show
• Other cast members (unnamed) joined Hester in a meeting with Neil Cohen, AETN’s Senior Vice President, Talent & Production to voice their concerns over the inappropriate and possibly illegal manipulation of the auctions
• The suit seeks a permanent injunction against producers disallowing them to continue manipulating auctions
• The suit contains five counts and seeks a total of over 2.25 million in compensation and lawyers’ fees
Hester claims in the suit that producers exercised the option to bring him back for Cycle four of Storage Wars, but later rescinded their offer due in part to the fact that Hester had his attorney send a letter to Ernest Avila, Original’s Executive Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, “requesting on behalf of Hester that Defendants agree to indemnify Hester in connection with any third party claims regarding the authenticity of the auction process and the Series. Defendants’ response to this was to fire Hester from the Series.”
An A&E spokesperson told Radar Online, “We do not know about a lawsuit being filed and we do not comment on pending or threatened litigation.” The network has previously said in a statement addressing allegations that Storage Wars is fake, “There is no staging involved. The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show.”
Here is the majority of the Dave Hester lawsuit typed up for you, with only some of the less interesting parts omitted. Please, if you use the text on another site, respect my hard work (and carpal tunnel) and provide a link!
A&E regularly plants valuable items or memorabilia. By way of example, in one episode a pile of old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis Presley was discovered. In another episode, a BMW mini car was found buried under a pile of trash.
Defendants Original Producers, LCC (“Original”), the producer of the Series, and A&E Television Networks, LLC (“AETN”), the distributor of the Series, would like the public to believe that the Series present a genuine and accurate portrayal of the abandoned storage locker auction process. The truth, however, is that nearly every aspect of the Series in faked, even down the plastic surgery that one of the female cast members underwent in order to create more “sex appeal” for the show, the cost of which was paid for by Original. Original regularly “salts” the storage lockers that are the subject of the auctions portrayed on the Series with valuable or unusual items to add dramatic effect, even going so far as to stage entire storage units. Original also manipulates the outcome of certain auctions by paying for storage units on behalf of the weaker cast members who lack both the skill and financial wherewithal to place winning bids.
The truth is that the Defendants regularly salt or plant the storage lockers that are the subject of the auctions portrayed on the Series with valuable or unusual items to create drama and suspense for the show. Defendants have even gone so far as to stage entire storage units, and will enlist the cooperation of the owners of the storage facilities to stage entire units. The producers of the Series have scheduled appraisals of items in the storage lockers several weeks before they are supposedly “discovered” by the cast member who wins the particular auction. Hester is informed and believes that a company called Off the Wall Antiques provides Defendants access to an entire warehouse full of marquee items, and in exchange, the owners of that establishment are regularly featured on the Series. Hester is informed and believes that Off the Wall Antiques is generously compensated for the items from its warehouse that are shown on the Series.
Similarly, many of the scenes portrayed on the Series are staged by the producers. Interviews with the cast members are scripted in advance. While on location filming an auction, Defendants also film footage of the cast members and the public bidding when no actual auction is taking place, in order to make it appear that any of the cast members is bidding at any given auction, whether or not he or she is actually bidding on the unit.. Although the Series shows cast members who have won storage units at auctions “breaking away” from the rest of the cast to inspect the contents of the unit during the auction, this never occurs. (This court document transcribed by starcasm.net) Typically the winning bidder will not inspect the contents of the unit he or she has acquired until after the auction is completed or the following day. In addition, Original pays for the storage lockers bid on by certain cast members, but not others, in order to give the weaker cast members an advantage over the more experienced and successful bidders such as Hester.
During Cycle 1 of the Series, Defendants requested that Hester provide valuable items that would be planted by Defendants in the storage lockers acquired by Hester. Although Hester initially agreed to do so, he soon realized that he did not want to participate in the fraudulent conduct. Hester complained to Dolph Scott (“Scott”), a Co-Executive Producer of the Series, and in response Defendants no longer requested that Hester provide items to be planted in the storage lockers.
At the beginning of Cycle 2, Defendants continued to salt the storage units and Hester again complained to Scott. Defendants’ response to Hester’s complaint was that they stopped salting only those storage units acquired by Hester, but continued to salt the storage units acquired by other cast members. In so doing, Defendants’ manipulated the outcome of the auctions and made it appear that the other cast members were more skillful bidders since they routinely purchased lockers containing valuable items and Hester did not.
During Cycle 1 and Cycle 2, when Hester or one of the other cast members on the Series won the contents of a storage locker in the auction, that individual would use his or her own lock to secure the contents of the storage locker until he or she had the opportunity to review the contents of the locker. However, in Cycle 3, Defendants insisted on using their own locks on the storage lockers portrayed in the Series. Consequently, because Defendants exercised sole control of the parties’ access to the storage units that were the subject of the auction, any salting of those storage units occurred either outside of Hester’s presence and without his knowledge. However, it was obvious that Defendants were continuing to salt storage units, including those purchased by Hester. When Hester would examine the contents of storage lockers he acquired, Original’s production staff would prod him to “check out” certain boxes or direct him to unload his unit in such a way that he would be certain to “discover” particular items the Defendants clearly knew had been planted in the unit.
On August 30, 2012, Defendants sent written notification to Hester that, as of August 21, 2012, they were exercising their option to engage Hester’s service for Cycle 4 of the Series. Pursuant to the Agreement, Hester is entitled to receive a fee of $25,000 per episode, with a guaranteed minimum of 26 episodes for Cycle 4 of the Series. In addition, Hester is entitled to receive $2,500 per month for the duration of the production of Cycle 4 of the Series, as well as a non-accountable expense account of $124, 500 for the Cycle and a $25,000 signing bonus.
On September 6, 2012, one week after Defendants gave written notification to Hester that they were exercising the option under the Agreement to engage Hester’s services for Cycle 4 of the series, Hester, along with some of the other cast members of the Series, participated in a meeting with Neil Cohen, AETN’s Senior Vice President, Talent & Production (“Cohen”). During that meeting, Hester complained that he believed that it was illegal for Defendants to continue to salt the storage units. The other cast members present agreed with Hester that Defendants’ conduct was inappropriate and possibly illegal.
Thereafter, Hester and the rest of the cast of the Series met with Cohen, Jeff Bumgarner, the Series Producer (“Bumgarner”), and Ernest Avila, Original’s Executive Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs (“Avila”). During that meeting, Bumgarner became angry and stated that he did not want to hear anything further about salting storage units. Cohen admitted that he was aware of the salting issue, but did not realize that the salting was occurring to the extent described by Hester. Avila responded to Cohen and identified two AETN executives 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.
Following the meeting, on September 18, 2012, Hester’s entertainment attorney, Stephen Barnes (“Barnes”), sent a letter to Avila requesting on behalf of Hester that Defendants agree to indemnify Hester in connection with any third party claims regarding the authenticity of the auction process and the Series. Defendants’ response to this was to fire Hester from the Series.
On October 1, 2012, Avila sent a letter to Hester notifying him that Defendants were purportedly rescinding their exercise of the option to engage Hester’s services on Cycle 4 of the Series. Avila’s letter cited Barnes’ September 18, 2012 letter in which Barnes had requested, among other things, that Defendants indemnify Hester in connection with claims arising from Defendants’ fraudulent conduct as one of the reasons for Defendants’ decision.
Defendants have no right under the Agreement or California law to rescind their exercise of the option to engage Hester’s services on Cycle 4 of the Series. It is obvious that the reason for Defendants’ purported recission of their exercise of the option is hat Defendants are retaliating against Hester for complaining that he believedDefendants were engaging in illegal and improper conduct.
Defendants’ fraudulent practices have harmed Hester and the other participants on the Series since the auctions portrayed on the Series are intended to be a genuine and honest competition among the bidders, but Defendants have manipulated the outcome of the auctions shown on the Series by planting valuable items in certain lockers, staging entire storage units and paying for storage lockers bid on by the weaker cast members on the Series to give them an unfair advantage over the rest of the participants. (This court document transcribed by starcasm.net) This fraudulent conduct has also harmed Hester’s reputation and business since Defendants’ behind the scenes manipulation of the results of the auctions has in some instances made it appear that he is less skillful than the other cast members who are able to outbid Hester since Defendants are paying for the storage units they bid on or who have acquired storage units hat have been salted with valuable items. In addition, Defendants’ deceptive and fraudulent conduct has also duped members of the television viewing public into watching the Series and making it the highest rated non-fiction program on cable television.
– What’s hilarious is although Hester is probably completely accurate in all of his allegations, he’s still going to come off as a villain because all those millions of viewers were perfectly happy with the manipulation – as long as they didn’t know about it! Can you imagine being one of the other cast members whose futures are now in a bit of jeopardy thanks to Hester’s lawsuit? Is $25,000 an episode plus a LOT of money to folks like Brandi Passante, Jarrod, Schulz, and Darrell Sheets? YUUUUPP!