NEW YORK — The TLC network has sued Jon Gosselin for breaching his contract as a star of the hit reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”
The lawsuit, filed Friday in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Md., alleges that Gosselin has failed to meet his obligations as an exclusive employee of the network, while appearing on rival networks’ programs for pay and making unauthorized public disclosures about the show.
Gosselin has starred since 2007 on the weekly “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” a ratings hit for the network that has been rocked in recent months by marital turmoil as Gosselin and his wife, Kate, feuded, then filed for divorce.
Gosselin, like his estranged wife, became mainstays on tabloid TV shows and magazine covers as Jon Gosselin was seen in the company of other women.
The couple are the parents of young twins and sextuplets whose family home is in Wernersville, Penn.
The suit is seeking from Gosselin unspecified compensatory damages and demanding he return income gained as a result of his breaches of the agreement, as well as to refrain from future violations of his contractual agreement.
“The network has been trying privately and patiently for months to get Jon to honor the contract he signed and to comply with his obligations relating to public appearances and statements,” said TLC in a statement on Friday. “Those efforts have been unsuccessful.”
Video: Driver says ‘Plus 8’ is ‘grotesque’ A statement from Gosselin’s attorney, Mark Jay Heller, called the allegations “weak, feeble and baseless,” and the contract “unenforceable and unconscionable.”
Heller said that TLC and its corporate owner Discovery Communications, LLC, have “treated Jon Gosselin like a dog by attempting to keep him on a leash and muzzle him and deny the father of eight the opportunity to earn a livelihood to support his family.”
The lawsuit says that, last June, in recognition of “the Gosselins’ difficult personal circumstances, TLC asked both parents to refrain from making public statements about each other, the divorce, or the program, and negotiated an agreed ’cooling off’ period with respect to media communications” for 45 days.
Nonetheless, the suit alleges that Gosselin “in violation of his contractual exclusivity” to his own show, “entered a lucrative arrangement to appear regularly on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and its companion show, ‘The Insider,’ to discuss his family and the problems he was having with Mrs. Gosselin, and he routinely sold photographic rights to various media outlets ....”
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The lawsuit also claims that on Sept. 18, TLC requested that Gosselin be present for filming six days hence. He didn’t respond to the request, and no filming took place on Sept. 24, the lawsuit says.
Slideshow: Jon and Kate Gosselin In light of Gosselin’s alleged “erratic public behavior, unprofessional conduct and serial disregard for his contractual obligations,” TLC on Sept. 29 announced the program would be relaunched in November as “Kate Plus Eight,” with Jon Gosselin taking a back seat role to single mother Kate and the eight kids.
The lawsuit claims that he responded with a request to be released from his exclusive arrangement to pursue other paying opportunities while continuing to be compensated by TLC.
When TLC declined to comply with such a release, Gosselin notified TLC that he would attempt to bar TLC’s access to the family property and filming of his children, the suit says, “on the grounds that it is purportedly detrimental to the children.”
A few days later, Gosselin told CNN’s “Larry King Live” that it’s “not healthy” for his kids to continue appearing on the TLC reality show. He said he had had “an epiphany one day” and realized his 5-year-old sextuplets and 9-year-old twins shouldn’t be filmed at the family’s Pennsylvania home while their parents are going through a divorce.
TLC has since granted a judge’s request that filming of the eight children be suspended.
TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said that, while both Kate and Jon Gosselin remain under exclusive contract to the network, the show’s longtime future remains in question.
Meanwhile, Gosselin was been embroiled in a separate legal matter. Earlier this week, he was ordered to return $180,000 in marital funds by Oct. 26, according to a lawyer for his estranged wife. Kate Gosselin, meanwhile, must provide an accounting of past expenses by the same date, lawyer Mark Momjian said. And an arbitrator will review another $55,000 she says she spent on household and child-related expenses.
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