Former ‘Windy City Rehab’ star Donovan Eckhardt’s defamation suit is dismissed
An attorney for Eckhardt’s former co-host Alison Victoria Gramenos said she ‘always tried to be truthful in relating her experiences with Donovan, and she is pleased that the California court rejected Donovan’s claims.’
A judge in California has dismissed former “Windy City Rehab” co-host Donovan Eckhardt’s defamation suit against showrunners he claims falsely painted him as an untrustworthy villain.
He now has an 0-2 record at trying to legally wrest $2 million from the companies behind the hit HGTV show.
The suit was filed against Scripps Network, which operates HGTV as a subsidiary of Discovery, and Big Table Media, the production company that makes the show. Eckhardt’s foe and former co-host, Alison Victoria Gramenos, was not named in the suit.
His first attempt at a defamation suit was rejected by a Cook County judge last summer because his work contract called for legal disputes to be settled in a California courtroom.
But a judge in Sacramento dismissed the suit last week.
Judge Richard Sueyoshi, despite determining Eckhardt met several legal burdens to advance his case, ultimately decided he failed to show that showrunners acted with malice by airing content they knew was false.
Sueyoshi, citing free speech rights protected under the First Amendment, concluded Eckhardt “failed to establish that there is a probability that he will prevail on the claim.”
Eckhardt’s Sacramento-based attorney, Ognian Gavrilov, said Eckhardt’s lawyers are weighing their options on whether to appeal.
“The case is being resolved not on the merits but on a technicality as far as we’re concerned. Because it doesn’t mean they’re right, it just means there’s a quirk in the law that puts the standard really high for these types of cases, where it goes beyond whether what they said was wrong, it had to be with malice,” he said.
Victoria Gramenos was pleased by the dismissal of the suit, according to her attorney, Daniel Lynch.
“Ms. Gramenos believes that Donovan’s complaint in California continued an untrue narrative that he is somehow a victim. Ms. Gramenos has always tried to be truthful in relating her experiences with Donovan, and she is pleased that the California court rejected Donovan’s claims,” Lynch said.
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.
The reality home renovation show’s latest season, which was originally supposed to run in late 2021, will kick off at 8 p.m. April 21 on HGTV and the Discovery+ streaming service.