Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Dr. Oz suit is another reason people hate lawyers

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
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
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT