David Hester of the popular A&E reality show "Storage Wars," known for yelling out the catchphrase "YUUUP!," has sued the cable network and a production company, claiming that the series is rigged and that he was wrongfully terminated when he talked to producers about it.
The reality star, who goes by the nickname Dave and is dubbed the "mogul" in the program's theme song, filed the lawsuit at a Los Angeles court on Monday, December 10, six days after the second part of the program's third season began to air. A copy was posted by The Hollywood Reporter. He is suing for damages of at least $750,000.
Reps for A&E, the show's distributor, and Original Productions, its production company, had no immediate comment about the matter. On the same day the lawsuit was filed, Hester promoted the show on Twitter, reTweeting A&E's message that said: "Watch a preview of tomorrow's all-new episodes of #StorageWars!"
Hester, who owns an auction house, is one of several cast members on "Storage Wars" who bid on California storage lockers said to have been abandoned in hopes of finding valuables or other rare items to sell for a profit. They have minutes to glance at the interiors. Hester places a bid by shouting out "YUUUP!"
Hester claims in his lawsuit that several storage units were set up from scratch and that "valuable" and "unusual" items were planted inside existing lockers to "create drama and suspense. He cites an example -- he says a pile of old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis Presley was once placed in one.
Hester's lawsuit quotes A&E as saying in a statement: "There is no staging involved. The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show." He calls this a "lie."
The companies, he states, "decided to get rid of" him when he objected to their alleged "fraudulent and deceitful conduct."
Hester says that he initially participated in the alleged staging.
He states that during the first season of "Storage Wars," he agreed to provide valuable items of his own to be planted in the storage lockers he would later acquire, but "soon realized that he did not want to participate in this fraudulent conduct" and complained about the alleged practice, after which he was not asked to participate.
At the start of season 2, he says he complained again about the alleged staging and was told that the storage lockers acquired by others would be the only ones affected, adding that the producers "manipulated the outcome of the actions and made it appear that the other cast members were more skillful bidders since they routinely purchased lockers containing valuable items and Hester did not."
Hester claims that producers still planted items in storage units he bought and staff members would "prod him to 'check out' certain boxes" so he could find them.
Hester says that on August 30, he received a letter from Original productions stating that they were "exercising their option to engage" his "services" for "Cycle 4" of the show.
He claims under the deal, he would be paid $25,000 for all 26 episodes as well as an additional $2,500 a month for as long as the show was in production, a "non-accountable expense account of $124,000" for the season and a $25,000 signing bonus.
Hester said that a week later, he complained to executives at both companies, during a meeting with other cast members, about the alleged staging.
Hester says his lawyer requested via a letter that the companies "indemnify" him "in connection with any third party claims regarding the authenticity of the auctions process and the series" and that the firms' response to this was to fire him. He also claims that weeks later, producers rescinding their offer to feature him on the new episodes of the show.
Hester also makes other accusations about the alleged production practices of "Storage Wars."
He states in his lawsuit says that Original Productions also paid for plastic surgery for one of the female cast members in order to create "more sex appeal" for the show.
Hester accuses the company of paying for storage lockers "bid on by certain cast members, but not others, in order to give the weaker cast members an advantage over the more experienced and successful bidders such as Hester." The firm has not responded.