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Dr. Oz insomnia cure left man lame, lawsuit says

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:36 PM EDT, Wed March 20, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Knapsack Heated Rice Footsie" caused third-degree burns to feet, lawsuit contends
  • Dr. Oz should've warned Frank Dietl about risks to someone with neuropathy, it says
  • Neuropathy caused by diabetes lessens sensitivity in lower extremities
  • Oz show info is "safe and educational for our viewers," Oz spokesman says

(CNN) -- A home remedy for insomnia shared by Dr. Oz on his TV show left a New Jersey man sick, sore, lame and disabled from third-degree burns, according to a lawsuit filed last week in New York.

Dr. Mehmet Oz called it "my night sleep special" on the April 17, 2012, episode of his NBC show titled "Dr. Oz's 24-Hour Ultimate Energy Boost Plan."

It's the "Knapsack Heated Rice Footsie." Specifically, it is a pair of socks with uncooked rice -- "just enough to fill the toe of the sock" -- and heated in a microwave oven.

"You put this in the microwave until it's warm," Oz told viewers. "Don't get it too hot, just warm."

Put the socks on your feet and go to bed, he said.

"When you do this and lie for about 20 minutes with those socks on in bed, the heat will divert blood to your feet to your heat," Oz said. "when your feet get hot, guess what happens to your body. It gets cold. Your body will automatically adjust its core temperature and as it gets cooler, you're going to be able to sleep better because your body has to be cold in order to be sleepy."

This, in combination with a cup of Rooibos Tea to reduce "tensions, headaches and irritability," should put you to sleep, Oz said.

"If you can do this the right way, you're going to be thanking me for years to come," he said.

Frank Dietl, watching the show in his Southampton, New Jersey, tried it that night.

"Dietl was severely injured, bruised, and wounded, suffered, still suffers and will continue to suffer for some time physical pain and bodily injuries and became sick, sore, lame and disabled and so remained for a considerable length of time," said the civil complaint, filed last Friday in a New York state court.

Dietl, 76, suffers from "neuropathy of the lower extremities," a result of diabetes, according to the lawsuit. The condition means Dietl has "a diminished sensation in his feet," it said. He couldn't tell whether the rice was dangerously hot.

Dr. Oz and his producers and distributors -- including co-defendants NBC, Sony Pictures Television, ZoCo Productions and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions -- should have warned viewers such as Dietl, the suit said. It was "reasonably foreseeable" that someone suffering from neuropathy might have tried the "Knapsack Heated Rice Footsie" and "thereby sustain serious physical injury."

Oz neglected his "duty and obligation to warn viewing audience as to the possible effects of following the advice offered" and "to warn against certain effects of said medical advice as to those persons suffering from other additional medical conditions," it said.

Dietl is asking the court to award him monetary damages for the "careless and negligent manner in which the defendants offered medical advice." His injuries caused him to be "confined to bed and home, has required medical attention, and has been prevented for some time to come, from pursuing his usual and ordinary activities," the suit said.

A spokesman for the show gave CNN a brief response to the lawsuit.

"At this time, The Dr. Oz Show has not been served with any complaint and therefore cannot comment on the matter however we stand by the content in our program as safe and educational for our viewers," Oz spokesman Tim Sullivan said.

CNN's Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

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