“Love Is Blind” viewers were quick to speculate after discovering signs that a couple’s seeming romance and honeymoon in Mexico had been edited out of the Netflix reality show’s fifth season.

Renee Poche, a Houston veterinarian who was part of the cut couple, sparked further intrigue when she told entertainment site Popsugar in October that she did get engaged on the show, but then ended the relationship after she began noticing “red flags” in her partner.

Poche didn’t elaborate further until Tuesday, when she brought the alleged details of punitive treatment by her producers on the show to court. In a lawsuit against Netflix and Delirium TV, which produced “Love Is Blind,” Poche alleged that production staff seized her phone, passport and driver’s license and kept her locked in a hotel room during the production. She also said she was pressured to continue an emotionally abusive relationship with a fellow contestant.

Netflix did not respond to requests for comment.

Poche’s lawsuit, which was first reported by Variety, doesn’t centre on the harrowing experience she claimed to have endured on one of Netflix’s most popular reality series though. It targets the non-disclosure agreement she signed with Delirium to join the show – and which Delirium accused her of violating when she gave interviews and took to social media to speak about her experience, triggering a US$4 million (NZ$6.4m) penalty, her lawsuit states.

The non-disclosure agreement unlawfully restricted Poche from speaking on workplace conditions and threatened her with an exorbitant penalty to “muzzle” her, the lawsuit states. Delirium’s attorneys contended that Poche told producers she enjoyed the show and was warned multiple times not to violate her agreement.

On Thursday, a judge in Los Angeles denied an initial application by Poche to halt Delirium’s arbitration against her. Larry Iser, an attorney for Delirium, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post that the judge made the proper decision.

“Love Is Blind,” a show that has contestants pair up in speed-dating sessions without initially seeing or physically interacting with their partners, has already faced lawsuits that alleged abuse on set. Another woman who was on the show’s fifth season sued Delirium and Kinetic Content, a second “Love Is Blind” production company, in October, alleging that she was sexually assaulted by her partner on the show and forbidden from leaving the show early after she expressed concerns. Delirium and Kinetic Content denied the allegations, Variety reported.

When Poche was selected to join the cast in 2022, she was told that the other people on the show were rigorously vetted and selected based on compatibility and marriage potential, according to her lawsuit. But after choosing her partner, Carter Wall, she alleged that Wall began showing erratic and emotionally abusive behaviour. Poche became “utterly terrified” of him, her lawsuit states. But producers allegedly encouraged her to continue filming with him and said she would face legal action if she left the show early.

Wall did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit also alleged that producers forbade her from leaving her hotel room without a minder and made her feel “like a prisoner” while she filmed the show.

Delirium’s response in court alleged that Poche was an enthusiastic participant of “Love Is Blind,” citing a text in which she told a public relations executive that she “had a blast” on the show. In text messages to PR officials and talent managers, Poche expressed interest in being cast in another dating show after “Love Is Blind,” Delirium alleged.

In court filings, Delirium also shared records of text messages between Poche and talent managers in which she was repeatedly warned not to share details about the production and why her scenes were omitted from the show. Poche responded to one of the talent managers, saying she was uncomfortable “lying to the public,” according to the court records.

In November, Delirium initiated arbitration against Poche for violating her non-disclosure agreement, according to her lawsuit. She was allegedly charged with four violations that carried penalties of US$1m each. Mark Geragos, her attorney, said it was unclear what comments prompted the action. But he contends that the agreement itself – and the vast majority of similar agreements signed by those cast in reality TV shows – are unlawful, and that Poche shouldn’t have been punished for speaking about negative experiences on set.

“On an emotional and human level, it’s outrageous,” Geragos told The Post.

Poche’s lawsuit argues that parts of the non-disclosure agreement forbidding her from making derogatory statements about “Love Is Blind” violate California labour law, which prevents companies from denying employees the right to expose unlawful acts in a workplace. It also claims that the penalties Poche is being threatened with are disproportional. Poche earned US$8000 for appearing on “Love Is Blind,” according to her lawsuit. Delirium levied a US$4m charge against her for violating her non-disclosure agreement, her lawsuit states.

“Delirium is using the excessive liquidated damages provision – US$1m per breach on an US$8000 contract – as a bludgeon to muzzle Poche,” the lawsuit states.

Delirium’s court filings state that confidentiality clauses are a standard practice to prevent stars from spoiling shows. Iser, the attorney for Delirium, said the non-disclosure agreement’s validity should be decided by an arbitrator.

Poche’s attorneys will next seek to end the arbitration against her via a preliminary injunction, which will be heard in February, Geragos said.

A successful challenge to Poche’s non-disclosure agreement could have wide-reaching consequences for the entertainment industry, where similarly restrictive contracts are “rampant,” Geragos said. Other reality TV figures, including “The Real Housewives of New York City” star Bethenny Frankel, have levied similar accusations against networks for using non-disclosure agreements to silence stars.

“It’s really kind of a perplexing to me that these have been around and seemingly unchallenged,” Geragos added. “Renee’s case was the most outrageous example.”

In her interview with Popsugar, Poche said she had gotten married to a different person outside of the show after leaving “Love Is Blind.”

Of the lawsuit, Geragos said Poche is “cautiously hopeful that she’ll get some relief.”

“Hopefully this can be cathartic for her,” Geragos said.

Share.