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‘Windy City Rehab’ co-host files defamation lawsuit in California

Donovan Eckhardt’s suit had been tossed by a Cook County judge who ruled Eckhardt’s contract requires disputes be resolved in California. In his suit, Eckhardt says his false portrayal on the show was the worst humiliation of his life, causing sleeplessness and loss of appetite.

Alison Victoria and Donovan Eckhardt of HGTV’s “Windy City Rehab.”  
Alison Victoria and Donovan Eckhardt of HGTV’s “Windy City Rehab.”  
HGTV

Ding. Ding.

Former “Windy City Rehab” co-host Donovan Eckhardt is ready for round two of his legal battle with the television companies behind the hit show that he claims falsely portrayed him as an untrustworthy villain and thief in order to boost ratings.

Eckhardt’s first attempt at a defamation suit was rejected by a Cook County judge in July on the grounds that his contract called for legal disputes to be settled in a California courtroom.

He appealed the decision, but lost; that decision was handed down last week.

Now the stage is set for the legal drama to play out in a courtroom in Sacramento, where the defamation suit has been refiled.

The suit claims the people behind the show, through a process of selective editing, falsely portrayed Eckhardt as a “villain” who stole money from accounts he shared with co-host Alison Victoria.

Eckhardt, who lives in Bucktown and earned $3,500 per episode, has suffered sleeplessness, humiliation and loss of appetite and has undergone counseling, according to the suit.

His business, Greymark Development Group, has also taken a severe hit.

Through early December 2019, Greymark had generated revenues in excess of $1,447,448. Over the same period in 2020, revenues declined to $251,565, according to the suit.

The suit names Discovery Inc., parent of HGTV, and Big Table Media, the production company that makes the show. It does not name Victoria, who has maintained what appears on the show is accurate.

Messages seeking comment from Discovery and Big Table Media weren’t immediately returned.

Eckhardt, though his attorney, declined an interview request.

“He’s devastated, but he’s hoping this is going to fix his reputation as much as possible and get a level of redemption through the court,” said Eckhardt’s new Sacramento-based attorney Ognian Gavrilov.

“The facts, as I see them, are very strong,” Gavrilov said. “There was a catastrophic event against his business because it was represented as a bunch of crooks. You can’t do that and then not explain ‘It’s just a TV show’ because the viewers assume it’s all real. They don’t understand there’s a distinction between reality and TV, even when the TV show represents itself as reality.”

Eckhardt is seeking more than $2 million in damages.

Showrunners announced in February that nine new episodes would begin airing in late 2021, but have since been silent about exactly when those episodes would debut.

On how the pending defamation suit might effect the upcoming episodes, Gavrilov said “I’m assuming they’re going to be a whole lot more careful.”