Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Dr. Oz suit is another reason people hate lawyers

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
March 25, 2013 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Dr. Oz being sued by N.J. man who burned his feet on rice in socks
  • Obeidallah says Oz's rice sleep aid suggestion gave rapacious lawyers chance to pounce
  • He says lawyers seeking quick buck take such cases, settle them, give bad name to lawyers
  • Obeidallah: Frivolous suits boost call for tort reform, hurt lawyers in end, and also injured people

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Dr. Mehmet Oz is being sued for injures sustained by a New Jersey man. Was this person under Dr. Oz' care? Was he someone Dr. Oz had spoken with about a medical issue? Did Dr. Oz, in an uncharacteristic fit of anger, punch the Jersey guy?

Nope. This man is simply one of the millions of people who have watched Dr. Oz on TV over the years. So why is he suing? Because, the plaintiff claims, he was injured when he tried Dr. Oz' home sleep remedy known as the "Knapsack Heated Rice Footsie."

Shake your head in disbelief all you want, but this is far from the most ludicrous lawsuit we have seen in recent years.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Who can forget the Michigan woman who filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the producers of the film "Drive"? Her complaint alleged that she was misled by the movie's trailer which promised "Fast and the Furious" type driving, which, alas, the film didn't deliver.

And then there was the lawsuit filed last year against the Dallas Cowboys by a woman claiming she sustained burns on her legs. What did she say the Cowboys did wrong? She claims they failed to warn her that sitting for an extended period of time on a black bench outside the Cowboys' stadium on a hot August day could cause burns.

More? Well, while in Tennessee, a couple sued Steak 'n Shake after their son ingested a sauce labeled "Mega Death Hot Sauce." It should be noted that the sauce bottle bears the image of a skull engulfed in flames.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



And that brings us to Dr. Oz. On his April 17, 2012, show, he offered advice about how to sleep better. One suggestion was filling the toe of a pair of socks with uncooked rice. The socks were then to be placed in the microwave and heated until warm. However, Dr. Oz expressly warned viewers, "Don't get it too hot, just warm."

The heated footsie was then to be worn for 20 minutes. The reasoning being that the heated socks will cause blood to be diverted to your feet, which in turn will cool the rest of your body. As Dr. Oz explained, "you're going to be able to sleep better because your body has to be cold in order to be sleepy."

However, the plaintiff claims that he suffered third degree burns from this remedy. How? Well, he apparently fell asleep with the socks on and didn't realize his feet had been burned until he woke up in the middle of night and tried to walk. The plaintiff also claims that Dr. Oz should have offered a specific warning to avoid using this remedy to people who, like him, have diabetes and hence less feeling in their feet.

Let's be honest: These above lawsuits are at best legally questionable and at worst frivolous. But don't blame the person seeking the money. Blame the lawyers.

Personal injury lawyers have enticed people for years with their TV commercials and ads on the walls of buses and trains telling us that if you have been wronged, you might be entitled to a big cash award or settlement. This is, of course, followed by the line: "We don't get paid unless you do."

So, understandably, people flock to these lawyers with complaints about every imaginable wrong seeking a payday. The lawyers then file lawsuits, hoping for a quick settlement so that they can do as little work as possible before seeing their own payday.

Full disclosure: When I practiced law, I represented corporations against lawsuits. Consequently, I'm a bit biased against plaintiffs' lawyers. But it's easy for even a non-corporate lawyer to see that these ridiculous lawsuits give the reputable plaintiffs' attorneys -- and, frankly, all lawyers -- a black eye.

It's not that I'm without sympathy for the growing number of lawyers out there struggling to make ends meet. The practice of law has grown increasingly competitive and challenging. I can understand the lure of taking a questionable case that will reap you some media coverage and money.

But that's not a good enough reason to do it. Lawyers need to collectively rein in these types of cases. If they don't, the government will do it for them under the guise of "tort reform." The new laws that result would in all likelihood make it harder to file a lawsuit and would limit damages in personal injury cases. And this will make it even more challenging for lawyers to earn a living. Worse, these reforms may prevent some truly injured people from receiving the full compensation they deserve because of caps on damages.

As for Dr. Oz, I hope that he doesn't settle quickly out of court. Instead, I hope they fully litigate this case. In all likelihood he will prevail. But even if the plaintiff does ultimately win, it still will have sent a clear message to plaintiffs' attorneys who take these legally questionable cases: If you want money, you are going to have to really earn it.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT