MIAMI (CN)- “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Melissa Gorga and the show’s executive producer, Andy Cohen, have been hit with a $30 million lawsuit alleging they defamed Gorga’s former business partner.
In a federal complaint filed Wednesday in Miami by attorney Larry Klayman, plaintiff Jackie Beard Robinson says she owned a clothing store in Delray Beach, Fla., and it was there that she met Gorga, whom she recognized as a television personality.
Robinson says the two women stayed in touch after that initial meeting, and that in August 2015, Gorga called her suggested they open a store together.
On Oct. 22, 2015, Robinson says, she and Gorga became
business partners and signed a contract naming Robinson as the sole manager of Envy, a boutique clothing store based in Montclair, N.J., and jointly owned under the auspices of Melissa Gorga LLC.
Envy was “an integral part of last season’s Defendant NBC Universal Cable’s ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey,’” the complaint says.
Robinson says the business partnership ended on Dec. 31, 2016, and the following morning she went to the boutique and “gathered all of her belongings.”
As she did so, she claims, she discovered Gorga had taken $37,000 worth of merchandise from the store.
“The merchandise belonged to – and was owned by – Plaintiff,” the complaint says.
Robinson says on Jan. 4, 2017, she received a letter from Gorga’s attorney acknowledging the women’s business relationship was dissolved, and stating that she could “sell off and retain the proceeds for the items that [Plaintiff took] from the Envy store”
But Robinson says the end of the business partnership was depicted far differently in an episode of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” that aired in October.
In that episode, Robinson claims, Gorga and her co-defendants made her look like a felon, stating she “snuck in, in the middle of the night and took all the clothes.”
That same night, Oct. 4, 2017, Gorga appeared on “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” and the defendants “falsely, recklessly, grossly negligently, and/or negligently stated, ‘wow, so, that lady [Plaintiff] wound up kinda ripping you off?’” the complaint says.
Robinson is seeking $10 million in compensatory, actual and special damages, and $20 million in punitive damages on multiple claims of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with prospective business relationships.
A spokesperson for Bravo, the NBC Universal subsidiary that airs the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” said in an email, “There is no merit to this lawsuit.”