'Love is Blind' contestant Renee Poche sues Netflix, says she 'felt like a prisoner' while filming show

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Renee Poche, a contestant who appeared on Season 5 of "Love is Blind," is suing Netflix after allegedly being penalized $4 million for breaching her contract by publicly discussing her experience on the show.

According to a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday, which USA TODAY obtained Wednesday, Poche claims the show's production company, Delirium TV, and Netflix intentionally inflicted emotional distress and violated California's Unfair Competition Law as well as California labor, government and civil codes with an "overreaching and unlawful talent agreement" that the participants were required to sign.

In her filing, Poche – a veterinarian who lives in Austin, Texas – requests that a judge determines the participant release and agreement to be illegal and unenforceable. She also seeks to be awarded damages.

"My experience on 'Love is Blind' was traumatic. I felt like a prisoner and had no support when I let Delirium know that I didn't feel safe," Poche said in a statement provided to USA TODAY. "I tried to deal with these emotions over time, and eventually felt like I needed to share what had happened. I felt it was only right to let others know the truth of what all of the cast mates had to endure."

"In return for this, I am now being sued for $4 million despite earning only $8,000 for my participation on the show," she said.

USA TODAY has reached out to Delirium and Netflix for comment.

Renee Poche was a cast member on Season 5 of Netflix's "Love is Blind," which came out in 2023.
Renee Poche was a cast member on Season 5 of Netflix's "Love is Blind," which came out in 2023.

Renee Poche: 'Love is Blind' production company is trying to financially 'ruin' her for speaking out

According to her Jan. 2 filing, Poche says Delirium initiated arbitration against her on Nov. 1, 2023. The production company, she says, alleged she violated the nondisclosure provisions of her agreement, which totaled $4 million in penalties.

Poche says Delirium and Netflix are trying "to ruin her for her speaking out against the unsafe working conditions she was forced to endure." After filming, Poche "made limited public remarks about her horrifying experience" on "Love is Blind" and in response, "Delirium is trying to drive her into bankruptcy," her filing alleges.

She earned a $1,000 per week stipend while filming in spring 2022, Poche says, and came away with a total of $8,000 from her participation in Season 5.

Poche told "Love is Blind" Season 2 stars Deepti Vempati and Natalie Lee about her filming experience in an October episode of their Out of the Pods podcast; some of these claims – including allegations against her partner on the show, Carter Wall – are included in her complaint.

At some point after filming wrapped, Poche claims production informed her that her relationship with Wall would not be featured in the show. However, Poche can be seen on the show, including in an episode where contestants are trying on wedding dresses. In this scene, she is described as being part of the "pod squad."

'Love is Blind' Season 5 spoilers: Who's together, who tried again after the pods

Renee Poche claims she 'was placed in a dangerous situation' while filming 'Love is Blind'

Stacy Snyder models a wedding dress for cast members Renee Poche (3rd from left) and Lydia Velez Gonzalez and their loved ones in Season 5, Episode 9, of "Love is Blind," which came out in 2023.
Stacy Snyder models a wedding dress for cast members Renee Poche (3rd from left) and Lydia Velez Gonzalez and their loved ones in Season 5, Episode 9, of "Love is Blind," which came out in 2023.

On the show, Poche "felt like a prisoner" as production was in possession of her phone and passport, and she was allegedly locked in her hotel room with permission to leave only when accompanied by a wrangler.

After leaving the "Love is Blind" pods and pursuing a relationship with Carter Wall during the show's filming, she became "utterly terrified to be around him," she claims. She says she was "placed in a dangerous situation" by being "forced to spend long stretches of time alone" with Wall as his "erratic and alarming behavior and emotional instability became glaringly obvious to Poche and the production staff."

Wall "regularly berated" her, stole from the set, solicited painkillers and amphetamines and physically threatened a camera operator while they filmed at a resort in Mexico, Poche alleges in her lawsuit.

Though Poche says she made her "misgivings clear to production," she claims producers "made it clear that she would subject herself to legal action" if she dropped out of the show or refused to move forward with the engagement.

Poche "was made to believe that the stipend could be 'clawed back' and that she would be sued unless she agreed to all of production’s demands, even if they made her feel unsafe," her lawsuit reads.

Wall is not listed as a defendant in Poche's lawsuit. USA TODAY has reached out to Wall for comment.

Renee Poche's lawsuit is not the first against 'Love is Blind'

Renee Poche (left), Taylor Rue and Aaliyah Cosby in the "Love is Blind" pods in Season 5.
Renee Poche (left), Taylor Rue and Aaliyah Cosby in the "Love is Blind" pods in Season 5.

In 2022, a fellow "Love is Blind" Season 5 contestant, Tran Dang, sued production companies Delirium TV and Kinetic Content, as well as her romantic partner on the show, in Harris, County, Texas.

She alleged her then-fiancé assaulted her and claimed producers falsely imprisoned her and neglected to ensure her safety.

"Love Is Blind" creator Chris Coelen told People magazine in a statement that though he supports people coming forward with their experiences of sexual assault, production was "never told that (Dang) felt unsafe or experienced any of the allegations that she made." He also claimed participants are free to leave the show when they want.

In 2022, Season 2 cast member Jeremy Hartwell also sued Netflix, Kinetic Content and Delirium TV, alleging various California labor law violations. Like Dang and Poche, Hartwell's lawsuit claims participants are not allowed to "move or act of their own free will while the production took place." According to his lawsuit, cast members also faced a $50,000 penalty for breaching their contract, including if they left while the show was filming.

Kinetic Content denied Hartwell’s allegations in a statement to Variety.

A reality TV reckoning in Hollywood

Poche's attorneys, Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos, are also working with former "The Real Housewives of New York City" star and entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel in what they call a "reality reckoning."

Frankel has called for reality TV stars to unionize and demand stronger protections.

"We have been inundated with hundreds of clients who all tell almost identical stories of being emotionally, physically and sexually assaulted. These clients live in fear of being sued for millions if they report workplace wrongdoing and have been misled that they must suffer in silence or like Renee be bullied by lawsuits seeking to financially ruin them," attorney Mark Geragos said in a statement shared with USA TODAY.

He added, "What Renee suffered and Bethenny exposed is not just rampant but part of a dirty industry secret."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Love is Blind' lawsuit: Renee Poche says she 'felt like a prisoner'