Reality TV Run Amok
MANHATTAN (CN) - A participant on Style Network's "Clean House New York" claims in court that the show's producers tore down a wall in his apartment, threw away valuable keepsakes, got him in trouble with the IRS and forged his signature on documents to duck payments for the damage to his home.
Paul McClure sued True Entertainment LLC on July 11 in New York State Supreme Court. True Entertainment is the only defendant.
"Clean House New York" is a so-called "reality" show in which participants' homes are de-cluttered and redesigned by designers Nina Ferrer and Michael Moeller, both former contestants on HGTV's "Design Star."
McClure claims in the lawsuit that he agreed to be on the show only after being promised by its producers that the crew would not make any structural modifications to his apartment and would give him the final say on whether certain items were thrown away.
Specifically, McClure says, he wanted assurances the crew would not destroy an interior wall "installed ... at his personal expense to create private access to a second bedroom, allowing [him] to split rent with a roommate."
However, "In breach of these representations and promises, the 'Clean House' crew removed the wall (despite Mr. McClure's protests), damaged the apartment in myriad ways, and threw away or lost many of Mr. McClure's cherished possessions that he had specifically designated be kept." (Parentheses in complaint.)
The lawsuit continues: "Moreover, defendants failed to inform Mr. McClure until filming was completed that the items defendant put into the apartment as part of the 'redesign' would be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as thousands of dollars in taxable income to Mr. McClure. To Mr. McClure's further surprise, the purported value of these items when reported to the IRS by defendant was significantly inflated, given that many of the items were damaged or defective."
When McClure brought his concerns to the show's producers, he says, they agreed to pay him more than $5,000 for the lost or damaged items and repair his apartment if he released them from liability.
McClure says he signed the release agreement, but "defendant never made the requisite repairs and never replaced the lost or damaged items, and, in breach of its contractual obligations, never paid [him] the $5,364.88."
"Instead, defendant later informed Mr. McClure that it would only pay him a lesser amount, and ultimately defendant sent Mr. McClure a check for that lesser amount."
After more protests, McClure says, "Defendant sent him a copy of a second release containing a forgery of his signature and listing the lower payment amount, rather than the amount agreed to.
"When Mr. McClure contacted defendant regarding the forged release, one of defendant's representatives admitted to Mr. McClure that she had signed his name to the document. This was done without Mr. McClure's permission."
In the complaint, McClure says True Entertainment still owes him many of his former possessions, including:
"a. A rug with an approximate value of $2,500, which defendant acknowledged was in its possession but later said was missing.
"b. Three solid-oak doors, which defendant also represented it had in its possession but later claimed had been misplaced, with an average value of $250.
"c. Ten men's dress suits, many of which were designer label, which Mr. McClure needed for auditions and acting engagements, with an average value of $500.
"d. Five overcoats, also designer label, with an average value of $675.
"e. Boxes of important documents, many holding sentimental value and others containing important records."
McClure seeks more than $300,000 in compensatory damages, and punitive damages for fraud, breach of contract and negligence.
He is represented by Richard Levine, with Weil, Gotshal and Manges.