Storage Wars Lawsuit: Judge Limits Scope of David Hester Claims

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David Hester's lawsuit against A&E, claiming he was wrongfully terminated and that Storage Wars is rigged, has been somewhat limited by judge's ruling.

As such, A&E has drawn first blood in this legal battle.

Dave Hester Picture

L.A. Superior Court judge Michael Johnson tossed Hester's claim of unfair business practices, and stated that his wrongful termination claims must be more specific.

Hester is a professional buyer of abandoned storage lockers; Storage Wars shows him and other buyers competing for the contents of those lockers.

He is challenging the producer's allegedly unethical behavior in "salting" storage units, which he says runs in violation of the Communication Act of 1934.

David Hester says A&E engages in the banned practice of "influencing, prearranging, or predetermining outcomes" in "contests of knowledge, skill, or chance."

Another of Hester's claims was that A&E committed unfair business practices, by making it appear that he is less skillful than his competition.

In response, A&E brought an anti-SLAPP motion to this claim.

Johnson said the claim arises from constitutionally-protected activity and the burden thus shifts to Hester to demonstrate "probability of prevailing" before proceeding.

The judge says he can't make the case, noting that unfair competition only regulates business practices within the arena of commercial speech.

Hester's claim, Johnson claims, "arises entirely out of non-commercial conduct concerning the production and broadcast of an expressive work."

Hester's lawyer attempted to point out that some of the activity that is being objected to wasn't aired. For example, producers issued press releases.

The judge found the argument "not persuasive," saying there is a distinction between speech promoting commercial activities and speech within expressive work.

The judge also dismisses Hester's claim of wrongful termination of employment in violation of public policy, but allows Hester to revive the claim with more specificity.

Hester's other claims for breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing weren't addressed at the hearing this week.

A&E says Hester is trying "to convert a garden-variety breach of contract claim into a tabloid-worthy drama, in which Hester portrays himself as a crusading whistleblower."

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