Jeff Lewis will have to battle it out in court with his daughter’s surrogate, a judge ruled Monday.
After pushing to have his legal dispute with Alexandra Trent, the woman who carried his and partner Gage Edward’s daughter Monroe, be sorted out in private arbitration, the Flipping Out star was told that he will have to take part in a presumptively public trial.
Trent filed a complaint against Lewis, Edward, their show’s production company, Authentic Entertainment, and Bravo in June claiming that Flipping Out producers filmed her giving birth to their daughter Monroe, now nearly 2, including capturing video of her vagina, without permission, and that Lewis and Edward had personally humiliated her by making “disgusting” comments on the show, according to a complaint obtained by PEOPLE.
Lewis had previously tried to have her suit thrown out, stating that the issue must be resolved in arbitration due to a clause in Trent’s contract. Now, a judge denied Lewis’s request and ruled that no such clause exists and the case will go to trial.
The judge found that the surrogacy contract Trent signed “is reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation.” The agreement also made no specific mention of “filming [her] giving birth.”
Reps for Bravo had no comment on the ruling.
In June, Lewis says he was “blindsided” by the lawsuit and claims that Flipping Out filmed Trent without her permission.
“That, to me, is insanity, because we were upfront and honest from the beginning, to the point where her appearance release was a part of the surrogacy agreement because the whole idea was to document this journey,” he said. “It was part of her agreement, it was all tied in. So how do you now say that you didn’t know you were being filmed? It’s a broad appearance release!”
“And not only did she sign an appearance release as part of our surrogacy contract, I believe she signed it as a separate appearance release with the production company. And she signed a nondisclosure agreement, which she now violated. So what’s the point of legal agreements if you’re just going to disregard them all?”
Monday’s ruling means Lewis’s earlier claims will be subject to further investigation.
“What Lewis had been saying in the press this whole time is that there is a release that covers the filming that took place, but the judge ruled yesterday that there is no release [that says this],” Trent’s lawyer, Arun Dayalan, told PEOPLe PEOPLE. “And whatever they’re waving around as a release, doesn’t apply to what happened.” Now, he continues, “they’re going to have to answer in court for invading our client’s privacy in her birthing room.”
Furthermore, Dayalan stated, “The court . . . said that even if it did apply, it was unconscionable, meaning that it was so oppressive — the terms — that it doesn’t have any legal validity.”
According to background provided in the ruling, Trent alleges that she had answered an anonymous email requesting she meet with a couple whose identities she did not yet know about possibly acting as their surrogate.She traveled from her home in Butte, California, to meet with Lewis and Edward.
“She shows up at a valet stand and a production person shows her a release and she signs that release. But that release was only for that day,” Dayalan, her lawyer, contends. Trent signed at least one subsequent contract, he says, to appear on the show during ultrasound appointments, but no agreements included mention of her being filmed while giving birth.
According to the complaint, Trent expressly told the expectant couple more than once she did not want to be filmed in the delivery room. On one occasion, she claims, her doctor was present.
Her OB-GYN, Dr. Lindsey Cafferata filed a declaration on October 1 that she “heard Ms. Trent inform the show producers that she did not want to be filmed while she gave birth as she did not want her reproductive organs displayed on television,” according to legal documents first obtained by The Blast. The doctor recalled that producers told her “that there would be no filming during the birth” but that Lewis and Edward said they wanted the video for “home use.”
Trent’s complaint alleges that she never reached an agreement with Lewis and Gage about this proposed usage.
“The main thing here is there’s no contract for what they did,” argues Dayalan. “We alleged penal code violations because when you try to film somebody inside a birthing room, which is by code an extremely private situation, you broke the law, essentially.”
Trent’s legal team expects that Lewis will appeal, but for now, the case is set to go to a juried trial. Trent is suing for unlawful recording, invasion of privacy and fraud.
Lewis told PEOPLE in June that the lawsuit was “like a blow to the head. We are completely blindsided by this,” he said via phone. “We are just devastated. I thought we had a nice relationship, a friendship. We treated her like an extended member of the family. So you can imagine this is pretty stunning.”
“And this is where I’m so upset. Because, on one hand, I don’t want to tarnish this most amazing experience of my life,” he continued. “We couldn’t be more grateful to this woman for birthing our child. We are indebted to her… we are so completely grateful to her, because without her, we wouldn’t have Monroe. But on the other hand, these are fabricated claims and are completely bogus and without merit. This smells to me like a financial shakedown.”
The escalating legal showdown isn’t the only controversy Lewis is embroiled in currently.
In September, PEOPLE exclusively reported that Lewis had parted ways with his longtime friend and coworker Jenni Pulos following an explosive fight that was said to have been caught on camera and will air during the current 11th season of Flipping Out.
He’s also gotten himself into hot water with Bravo for discussing the situation with Pulos and Trent publicly on his social media and on his Sirius XM radio show, Jeff Lewis Live. Last week, he read scathing text messages he claims were from his boss, Andy Cohen, verbatim on the air after his contract at Bravo was not renewed by the date it expired, October 15. He claimed he was a “free agent,” but later clarified that the show is not necessarily cancelled.
Cohen spoke out about the incident on his own XM show stating, “If I were in charge of programming at Bravo at this point, would I pick it up? I don’t know.” He also clarified that it’s no longer his job to make that decision.
Flipping Out airs Tuesdays (10 p.m. ET) on Bravo. Jeff Lewis Live airs Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (11 a.m. ET) on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy (Ch. 102).