A California judge has dismissed former “Windy City Rehab” co-host Donovan Eckhardt’s libel lawsuit against showrunners he claims falsely portrayed as an untrustworthy villain.
He is now 0-2 in trying to legally snatch $2 million from the companies behind the hit HGTV show.
The lawsuit 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 nemesis and former co-host Alison Victoria Gramenos was not named in the lawsuit.
His first libel suit attempt was thrown out by a Cook County judge last summer because his employment contract provided for legal disputes to be settled in a California courtroom.
But a Sacramento judge dismissed the complaint last week.
Judge Richard Sueyoshi, although he determined that Eckhardt had met several legal charges to advance his case, ultimately ruled that he had failed to show that the showrunners had acted maliciously by spreading content that they knew to be wrong.
Sueyoshi, citing free speech rights protected by the First Amendment, concluded that Eckhardt “has failed to establish that there is a likelihood that he will outweigh the claim.”
Eckhardt’s Sacramento-based attorney, Ognian Gavrilov, said Eckhardt’s legal team is weighing their options on whether to appeal.
“The case is resolved not on the merits, but on a technical point, as far as we are concerned. Because that doesn’t mean they’re right, it just means there’s a quirk in the law that sets the standard very high for this type of case, where it goes beyond whether what they said was wrong, it had to be maliciously,” he said.
Gramenos was pleased with the dismissal of the lawsuit, according to her lawyer, Daniel Lynch.
“Ms. Gramenos believes that Donovan’s complaint in California continued a false narrative that he is somehow a victim. Gramenos has always tried to be honest in recounting her experiences with Donovan and she is pleased that the California court has denied Donovan’s requests,” Lynch said.
Eckhardt, who lives in Bucktown and earned $3,500 per episode, suffered from insomnia, humiliation and loss of appetite and took counseling, according to the lawsuit.
His business, Greymark Development Group, was also hit hard.
The final season of the home renovation reality show, which was originally slated to run in late 2021, will premiere at 8 p.m. on April 21 on HGTV and the Discovery+ streaming service.