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Dr. Oz Wins in Lawsuit Over Rice Footsie Burns

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By Betty Wang, JD on October 15, 2013 1:15 PM

After being sued earlier this year by a viewer, Dr. Oz has now prevailed. New York judge Saliann Scarpulla has rejected the lawsuit earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

76-year-old viewer Frank Dietl was watching an episode of The Dr. Oz Show, in which doctor and TV-host Mehmet Oz was introducing a home remedy for cold feet and sleeplessness. The remedy involved microwaving uncooked rice in a pair of socks and then wearing them to bed. Dietl apparently tried this and suffered second and third-degree burns. Subsequently, he sued Dr. Oz, NBC, Sony Pictures Television, and Harpo Productions for those personal injuries.

What exactly did he allege, though? Also, why did the judge ultimately reject his claim(s)?

Doctor-Patient Duty of Care

Dietl, according to the lawsuit, alleged that Dr. Oz had breached a duty of care in providing negligent medical advice to his viewers. He claims that Oz should have warned the audience about the possible dangers associated with the remedy -- especially if improperly prepared or if anyone in the audience had special medical conditions.

It should go without saying that doctors, in general, owe a duty of reasonable care to all their patients. Breaching that duty can entail actions (or omissions -- including a failure to warn) that fall below the acceptable standards of practice, which may lead to a medical malpractice suit.

No Relationship From TV Screen

Judge Scarpulla didn't buy any of Dietl's claims, however, and found no liability on Dr. Oz's part because there was no physician-patient relationship established, period. A duty of care, according to the judge, can't be established just from a doctor on TV speaking into a camera and at an unseen audience.

"Dietl fails to convince this court that creating such a duty would be sound public policy," Judge Scarpulla claims, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She also adds that, "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."

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