“Here’s your dinner guest,” Dr. Phil McGraw told the women, and then set loose a naked man. At least, that’s what two women have alleged. As the THR, Esq. blog notes, that seemed like a pretty bizarre claim at first — okay, it still does — but it gained at least some credibility after the second woman sued. The women won an initial victory in the California Court of Appeal on January 6.
The women say they agreed to participate in something called “The Dr. Phil House,” a series of episodes in which groups of people spend up to a week in said House in order to work through problems. Plaintiffs allege that the House was in fact a “cramped, windowless ‘mock house’ on a sound stage in a bad neighborhood,” that they were not allowed to communicate with their families, and most horrible of all, that the food they were given “included items they had identified in questionnaires as being their least favorite foods.” (This happens at Gitmo, too — it’s shameful.)
The deal-breaker, though, came on the third night at the House, after plaintiffs say they were told they “were going to have a special dinner guest.”
Later that evening, McGraw appeared on the television monitor and announced, “Here’s your dinner guest.” The male dinner guest was at the front door, fully naked exposing his genital area. Plaintiffs were shocked and horrified. Plaintiffs ran into a room and shut and locked the door. [They] heard the crew and others laughing at them. . . . Plaintiffs insisted on leaving, but defendants were uncooperative in allowing them to do so. Plaintiffs ultimately were allowed to leave the Dr. Phil House. Plaintiffs allege various emotional and physical injuries from the experience.
The defendants filed an “anti-SLAPP motion,” which means they were invoking their First Amendment rights and arguing that the case should be dismissed unless plaintiffs could show they were likely to prevail. The court ruled that plaintiffs had done that. This seems like bad news for Dr. Phil, especially given some of the things the court said about the releases Dr. Phil uses. Ultimately the releases were held to preclude some claims, but not others, for example the claim that the “therapy” you get from Dr. Phil might include having a naked man chase you into a closet.
None of this means that plaintiffs have a very good claim, since it seems likely they are greatly exaggerating the harm caused by the chase, let alone the intentional infliction of non-favorite foods. It does mean that for now they can continue to bother Dr. Phil, so I’d say that justice has been done.