At this point, it would be fair to call Windy City Rehab an embattled production. While the show was a major hit right out of the gate, it wasn't long after the first season aired that numerous problems with the homes that were renovated by contractor Donovan Eckhardt and designer Alison Victoria came to light. There have been a shocking number of lawsuits filed against the former business partners, with Eckhardt filing his own defamation and emotional distress suit against the production company behind Windy City Rehab and HGTV's parent company. Now, though, he's gotten some bad news about that suit.
It was back in January 2021 that Donovan Eckhardt, who was fired from Windy City Rehab in the spring of 2019, filed a lawsuit against Big Table Media (the show's production company) and Discovery (HGTV's parent company) for $2.2 million. This was because of alleged emotional distress he says he suffered after the show made it look, in Season 2, like "Donovan misappropriated, embezzled or wrongfully derived money from past projects," and showed Alison Victoria as the "unknowing, innocent victim."
Unfortunately for Eckhardt, Cook County Judge Patricia O’Brien Sheahan dismissed his lawsuit recently, noting that his contract stated that any legal disputes must be settled in a California court, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
A lawyer for Donovan Eckhardt, Daniel Hogan, tried to argue that moving the venue from Illinois to California would be too much of a burden for witnesses in the defamation case. Even though that would seem to be a worthwhile justification, especially with the current, tricky state of our ongoing heath crisis, Judge O’Brien Sheahan noted that video recorded testimony and other remote forms of participation were possible, so she rejected the argument and dismissed Eckhardt's lawsuit.
Eckhardt's attorney has already filed an appeal in the hopes of having the decision overturned, but we don't know right now if the plan is to re-file the lawsuit in California should the appeal prove unsuccessful.
Obviously, both stars of Windy City Rehab have seen several setbacks when it comes to the show and all of the legal drama surrounding it for the past two years. But, having his defamation lawsuit dismissed in Illinois has likely been a big blow for Donovan Eckhardt, who was both looking to recover some of his financial losses brought on by the show and all of the lawsuits, and regain at east some of his good name. In his original filing, Eckhardt reported that he'd suffered social media attacks from fans because of his portrayal on the series, and that helped lead to anxiety and depression.
Season 2 of Windy City Rehab showed Eckhardt and Alison Victoria's working relationship break down, and did, definitely, play Victoria as a "victim" of his supposedly shady business practices who seemed to only be interested in designing and claimed to know nothing about how he was handling the financials and other aspects of their partnership. Victoria was not named as a defendant in his original suit, but by the end of March, Eckhardt's attorney attached a new filing to the lawsuit claiming, in part, that she helped production stage scenes to make him look like the bad guy, including faking tears on camera.
I'm sure we'll see before much longer whether or not Donovan Eckhardt will decide to pursue his case on the west coast, until then, Windy City Rehab will be back for nine new Season 2 episodes later this year. For more to watch in the meantime, check out our 2021 summer TV schedule and 2021 fall TV premiere dates!