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
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT