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Contractor Says Spike TV Defamed Him

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A host of Spike TV's "Catch a Contractor" TV show falsely imprisoned a contractor in a house until he agreed to appear on the show and defamed him as a criminal when the episode aired, the contractor claims in court.

Jeff Dillman sued Spike Cable Networks, Eyeworks USA, Bongo LLC, Skip Bedell and Scott Derman, on March 20 in Superior Court.

"To Catch a Contractor" is a Spike TV home improvement "reality" series produced by Eyeworks USA. The show's hosts, who include Adam Carrola, help homeowners bust "crooked contractors" who take advantage of their clients, and then fix the contractors' shoddy renovation jobs, according to the web page for the show.

Dillman's contracting company, Dillman Developments, bid on and won the contract to remodel defendant Scott Derman and Samantha Cadman's house and started working on the project on July 1, 2013, according to the complaint.

Cadman is not a party to the complaint, though Derman is.

Roughly two months later, "the building inspector flagged a frame issue with one of the beams" and submitted an engineering proposal, the complaint states.

Derman and Cadman knew about the problem with the frame, but moved into the house anyway, Dillman says. They stopped all payments for the project, including for work Dillman had already done, and terminated his contract on Oct. 25. A month later, they applied to appear on "To Catch a Contractor," according to the complaint.

In a typical episode of the show, host Adam Carolla and licensed contractor Skip Bedell meet with the homeowners, learn who their contractor was and how much was charged for the remodel, and inspect the contractor's work.

Bedell's wife, Alison Bedell, allegedly a licensed private investigator, then tracks down the contractors, observes them for a few days, and then lures them into a sting operation with a fake house and a sham client.

Alison Bedell is not a party to the complaint.

Dillman says the defendants devised a similar "trap" for him at a house on Handley Avenue in Los Angeles.

"A woman watering the lawn invited plaintiff into the house, and offered to get 'Elizabeth Stevens' the woman from whom plaintiff was supposedly to pick up a check for materials to begin contracting work. Unbeknownst to plaintiff, the woman watering the lawn was Alison Bedell. Plaintiff had been lured to the house under false pretenses. Not suspecting anything out of the ordinary, plaintiff sat down on the couch to wait. The trap was sprung. Within seconds, numerous cast and crew members descended upon plaintiff where he was being held. Carolla and Bedell charged into the living room, a bouncer guarded the door, and various crew members with cameras and boom mikes surrounded plaintiff. Derman and his wife watched from monitors set up in another room," the complaint states.

Carolla is not a party to the complaint.

Once trapped inside the house, Dillman says, the defendants told him he could do one of three things: return Derman's money, which Dillman says he received for work he had done; walk away and have the defendants "drag his company name through the mud" and help Derman sue him; or sign a release to go on the show and finish Derman's remodel.

Dillman says the defendants told him that the show was all about making amends and that agreeing to come back and finish the project would make him look good. After being ambushed and threatened with litigation, Dillman says, he "felt like he had no choice but to sign the release, and so signed the release under extreme duress."

The show agreed to give him $10,000 to complete the job and filmed the work for three days, according to the complaint. Dillman claims that the defendants defamed him on the episode, titled "House of Cards," which aired in March 2014.

"While brandishing a photograph of plaintiff, the use of which plaintiff had specifically objected, Bedell called plaintiff a 'criminal.' This footage was aired to approximately 1 million viewers," the complaint states. "Plaintiff is not, and has never been, a criminal. Plaintiff has never been arrested for, much less convicted of, any misdemeanor or felony crime."

Dillman claims the show staged a lot of the action to create false drama. For instance, Alison Bedell made a big deal of tracking down his address based on DMV records when Derman already had it, he says.

David Schwarz, senior vice president of communications for Spike TV, said the network has no comment on the lawsuit.

Dillman seeks at least $25,000 in punitive and exemplary damages for fraud, false imprisonment, defamation and violation of right to name or likeness.

He also wants an injunction preventing the defendants from reproducing or making the "House of Cards" episode available, an order for them to destroy all defamatory materials depicting him, and a retraction. He is represented by Alyssa Schabloski with McNicholas & McNicholas

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