An elderly New Jersey man who severely burned his feet after attempting a sleeplessness remedy suggested by a popular television personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz, cannot sustain a personal injury action against the physician, no matter how much he cherished Oz’s advice, a judge in Manhattan has ruled.
Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla (See Profile) held that even though Frank Dietl says he trusted Dr. Oz as if he was his own physician, there was nothing close to a physician-patient relationship that would establish a duty of care.
“Dietl has pointed to no authority that would lead this court to find a duty of care between a television talk-show host and his vast home-viewing audience, and Dietl fails to convince this court that creating such a duty would be sound public policy,” Scarpulla wrote in a brief decision dismissing the claim.
Dietl v. Oz, 152423/13, is rooted in an April 17, 2012 episode of Dr. Oz’s show on the NBC network.
In that show, Oz revealed his “night sleep special,” a remedy for cold feet and insomnia. Oz told viewers to fill the toe of their socks with uncooked rice, heat it in a microwave until warm and wear the toasty socks to bed, warning his audience: “Don’t get it too hot, just warm.”
Dietl, then 76 and suffering from neuropathy and a diminished sensation in his feet due to diabetes, attempted the remedy and ended up with second and third-degree burns because he couldn’t tell that the rice was too hot, according to court records. He sued Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, alleging Oz breached a duty of care to his audience by providing negligent medical advice and failing to warn viewers of the potential dangers of the at-home remedy.
But Scarpulla disagreed.
“While the injuries sustained by Dietl were serious and unfortunate, there is no basis for his claim against the defendants,” Scarpulla wrote.
Scarpulla dismissed the claim against Oz, ZoCo Productions, Sony Pictures Television, Harpo Productions and The Dr. Oz show. A claim against NBC Studios was withdrawn.
Tim Sullivan, a spokesman for Oz, said “we never felt that suit had any merit and the judge’s decision affirms that.”
Dietl, the brother of television personality and former New York Police Department detective Bo Dietl, said in an interview that a year-and-a-half after trying Oz’s remedy, he is still in pain.
“I’ve still got problems,” said Dietl, who lives in Southampton, N.J. “It is hard to walk. I have a lot of concerns about my legs.”
Dietl said he doubts he will appeal.
“I don’t see any reason [to appeal],” he said.
Dietl was represented by Dominick Gullo of Brooklyn and the Manhattan firm of Aidala & Bertuna. Oz was defended by Berke-Weiss & Pechman in Manhattan.
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