Some plaintiffs, like Deena Murphy and Tim Sullivan, who appeared on HGTV’s “Love It or List It” in 2016, sued for breach of contract, saying that faulty workmanship had, according to their complaint, “irreparably damaged” their North Carolina home after they spent $140,000 of their own money. According to court documents, they settled, but not before being slapped with a lawsuit themselves, for libel, slander and product disparagement. The case, which went to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, was eventually dismissed. The settlement terms are confidential, and Mr. Sullivan declined a request to be interviewed.
Billi Dunning and Brent Hawthorne, a Nevada couple who settled in a 2018 suit against “Flip or Flop Las Vegas,” were also sued. According to court documents, lawyers for the program’s hosts, Bristol and Aubrey Marunde, said Ms. Dunning and Mr. Hawthorne violated the confidentiality provision of their settlement agreement, in which they were awarded $50,000 plus a repurchase price of about $284,000 for the home in question. Ms. Dunning and Mr. Hawthorne also declined to be interviewed.
In the complaint, in which Bristol and Aubrey Marunde appear as defendants, the Marundes wrote, “Due to the spiteful actions of Plaintiffs, Defendants have suffered irreparable economic and emotional harm to their personal, and professional lives and Plaintiffs have been unjustly enriched by the settlement proceeds paid by Defendants.” Their suit was dismissed by a judge in early March.
Nearly all contestants are required, when signing onto a program, to agree to a strict waiver that prevents them from speaking to the press or posting on social media, about not just the show itself, but also, according to one waiver reviewed by The New York Times, “any nonpublic information or trade secrets obtained or learned in connection with the program.”
“They put the fear of God in you when you do these shows,” Ms. King said.
When it comes to legal disputes between shows and their contestants, what’s promised or put on air is irrelevant, said Ryan Ellis, a lawyer for the Kings. It all comes down to the contract.
“A contract states that certain things are supposed to be done. And production or no production, if those things aren’t done, then we have an issue,” Mr. Ellis said.