‘Windy City Rehab’ star Donovan Eckhardt files $2.2M defamation lawsuit over ‘villain’ portrayal

Eckhardt's co-star Alison Victoria is not named as a defendant in the suit

Former "Windy City Rehab" co-star Donovan Eckhardt is suing HGTV’s parent company and the production studio behind the popular home remodeling series, claiming defamation and emotional distress brought on by what he alleges was a "humiliating" and "villain" portrayal during the second season of the show.

The ex-business partner, contractor and developer associate of series co-star, Alison Victoria, filed a suit in Illinois’ Cook County Circuit Court on Monday against Discovery Inc. and production company Big Table Media.

Eckhardt claims the home renovation title was scripted in its delivery of content and was edited to make Eckhardt out to be a bad person and Victoria a victim of his dealings, according to People magazine.

Despite Victoria being an executive producer on the beloved HGTV flipping series – which was one of the network's top-rated shows in 2019 – the lively co-host is not named as a defendant in the court filing, the publication said on Friday. 

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Victoria’s attorney issued a no comment on the filing to People magazine, and HGTV told Fox News it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Former 'Windy City Rehab' co-host Donovan Eckhardt, right, is suing HGTV's parent company Discovery Inc. and a production company for defamation over his portrayal before his exit in Season 2.

Former 'Windy City Rehab' co-host Donovan Eckhardt, right, is suing HGTV's parent company Discovery Inc. and a production company for defamation over his portrayal before his exit in Season 2. (HGTV)

Reps Victoria did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.

Eckhardt and Victoria endured a tumultuous relationship during the show’s second season, and Eckhardt exited the series after the working pair had a fallout regarding their projects’ finances.

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The schism and tension proved unbearable on screen as Eckhardt took umbrage with accusations from Victoria centered on payouts to Eckhardt’s companies.

Furthermore, the series was mired by frequent work-stoppage orders by the City of Chicago, which suspended issuing construction permits to the HGTV hosts following a notice for Victoria's LLCs that listed allegations such as: performing or directing work without proper permits, making false statements on permit applications, and performing or directing "work that poses an immediate or imminent threat to the health and safety of workers or the public."

The show has also been plagued by lawsuits from former clients claiming shoddy work done by the hosting pair.

In Eckhardt’s defamation claim filed on Monday, he goes episode-by-episode through Season 2 and explains his position in which he feels he was "humiliated" by the show’s editing and his portrayal.

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Per People magazine, who directly cites Eckhardt’s filing, the contractor alleges prior to his exit mid-season his experience was the most "traumatic event Donovan and his family ever endured" and that the allegations of misappropriated company funds, lack of communication with Victoria as well as his inability to perform under pressure are untrue.

Eckhardt was supposedly "placed under constant pressure by Big Table Media to complete the projects being filmed for season one," he claims, per the publication, which maintains that, "aggressive filming and production deadlines" from the network and the named production company were the catalysts for the abundance of work-stoppage orders levied against the "Windy City Rehab" cohort.

Due to the time constraints, the lawsuit states that Eckhardt 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."

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Eckhardt presses, according to People, that scenes during the season in question were "carefully scripted, choreographed and edited" to blame him for mishaps that occurred and says he was presented as "the villain and cause" and "Alison as the unknowing, innocent victim of all of the issues, which Alison allegedly encountered in Season 2 as well as Alison's claimed financial ruin."

The filing from Eckhardt asks for in excess of $2.2 million for actual, punitive and compensatory damages for counts of "defamation" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

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"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, according to People magazine. 

It further claims that the defendants were in an unfair position of authority over Eckhardt, and were aware that he was "prone to anxiety and vulnerable to emotional distress."

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"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," the lawsuit also adds, while maintaining that social media comments directed towards Eckhardt contain "explicit threats of bodily harm."

In addition, the suit also claims that Eckhardt's finances have been impacted by the alleged defamation, the outlet reports.  

Fox News’ Melissa Roberto contributed to this report.