Dr. Mehmet Oz has prevailed in a lawsuit brought by a viewer who claims he suffered third-degree burns after following insomnia advice Oz suggested on his hit TV show, according to recently-filed court documents.
In dismissing the lawsuit against Dr. Oz on Oct. 3, Judge Saliann Scarpulla of the New York Supreme Court ruled there was no "duty of care between a television talk-show host and his vast home-viewing audience."
Judge Scarpulla did not address whether the insomnia advice Dr. Oz offered was bad or good, but merely said Oz did not have a physician-patient relationship with the plaintiff, and therefore was not responsible for his injuries.
Frank Dietl, a 76-year-old New Jersey man, filed the lawsuit in March 2013, claiming he suffered severe burns on his feet after following Dr. Oz's insomnia advice, which involved putting uncooked rice in a pair of socks, microwaving it, and then wearing the heated socks to bed.
On the April 17, 2012 episode of "The Dr. Oz Show," Oz said his "heated rice footsie" helped cure his insomnia, calling it "my night-sleep special."
After trying the remedy, Dietl claimed he experienced second- and third-degree burns on his feet. Dietl suffers from diabetes-induced neuropathy, which causes diminished sensation in his lower extremities. He said Dr. Oz should have warned the audience they could get injured while trying the home remedy if they had pre-existing medical conditions like he did.
In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Scarpulla said the plaintiff should have known he wouldn't be able to tell if the rice was dangerously hot because of his neuropathy.
"Dietl was well aware of his own medical condition and the possibility that he could be susceptible to injury because of the diminished sensation in his legs," the judge wrote in her opinion.
Furthermore, the judge said she couldn't find a good reason to create a "duty-of-care" relationship between a TV doctor and his audience that would leave him liable for injuries viewers sustain while following his advice.
Scarpulla noted that a doctor-patient relationship is not created simply by a TV physician looking into a camera and addressing his millions of anonymous at-home fans.
"Dietl fails to convince this court that creating such a duty would be sound public policy," wrote Judge Scarpulla, who suggested viewers should exercise their own judgment and consult a doctor (in person) before implementing health remedies suggested by a TV doctor.