Windy City Rehab alum Donovan Eckhardt has filed a $2.2 million lawsuit claiming defamation and emotional distress due to his portrayal in the HGTV show's second season. In a lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE against HGTV's parent company, Discovery Inc. and Windy City Rehab's production company, Big Table Media, the former business partner of Alison Victoria claimed the show was scripted and edited to make him seem like the "villain" to Victoria's victim.
Victoria, an executive producer on the show, was not listed as a defendant. HGTV told PEOPLE it doesn't comment on ongoing litigation. Fans of the Chicago-based show will recall Eckhardt's exit in Season 2 following a blowout with Victoria over their finances, which included her accusations of questionable payouts to Eckhardt's companies amid construction problems, including a threatened suspension of Eckhardt's licenses and two lawsuits from former clients.
Eckhardt's lawsuit filing lists every qualm he has with his portrayal in the show's second season, which includes false allegations of mishandling and stealing company finances, an inability to perform his job and a lack of integrity in his business practices. In the filing, he claims he was "placed under constant pressure by Big Table Media to complete the projects being filmed for season one," which he blamed for the stop-work orders, construction problems, blocked permits, and license suspensions that caused legal problems for him and Victoria. Because of the limited time they had, Eckhardt claimed 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."
Many of the dramatic scenes in the show were scripted and edited to make him seem at fault, Eckhardt claimed, and painted Victoria as the "unknowing, innocent victim." Eckardt asks for more than $2.2 million in actual, punitive and compensatory damages for counts of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The former HGTV star claimed that because of his portrayal on the show, his revenue dropped from $1,447,448.92 in 2019 to $251,565.60 in 2020.
"Donovan 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," the lawsuit reads, adding, "The broadcasting of the foregoing Season 2 episodes was the most embarrassing, humiliating and traumatic event Donovan and his family ever endured, and damaged Donovan's mental and physical health."