Dr. Phil McGraw: Lawsuits and Scandals

He could probably use some time on his own couch. Dr. Phil McGraw, TV’s most famous shrink, is currently in the middle of not one, not two, but three lawsuits that range from embarrassing to weird to serious.



Certainly, Dr. Phil is no stranger to scandal: these three legal proceedings continue forward, but Dr. Phil’s tumultuous times are not relegated to the present—he’s had some epic fails in the past few years. In 2004, for instance, he settled a class-action lawsuit over his diet supplements for Shape Up! for $10 million dollars (but admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement).

Some people have the magic touch. Does Dr. Phil have something like the opposite? Through a representative, he would not comment for this story. But let us review!

1) Current Lawsuit: Ouch, the Dog Bit Me!

It’s bad enough to be sued, but to be sued over a dog bite? Janet Harris alleges she got an infectious disease after Dr. Phil’s dog allegedly bit her. Harris is a skin-care specialist who has been a frequent guest on his show and, according to her lawsuit, was close friends with Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin McGraw.

Harris is claiming that after Dr. Phil’s Korean Jindo, Maggie, bit her, instead of taking Harris to a hospital, to avoid publicity, he procured antibiotics via a friend who was a nurse. Harris is alleging that the improper treatment led to her infection and caused tremors in her right hand, and permanent hearing loss. Dr. Phil’s attorneys are asking the lawsuit be dismissed because Harris had signed an arbitration agreement and she has no case.



2) Current Lawsuit: The Natalee Holloway Defamation Case

Then there’s the case of the Kalpoe brothers, onetime suspects in the disappearance and murder of Natalee Holloway. In 2005 Dr. Phil’s program on the blonde beauty’s disappearance heavily featured Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe. They allege that show’s portrayal of them—using hidden-camera footage edited in an allegedly misleading way—constituted defamation. On Tuesday the judge allowed the deposition of Holloway’s mother, Beth—which Dr. Phil’s legal team had tried to prevent. Joran Van der Sloot was eventually indicted, and is the only official suspect.

When the suit was first filed, Paramount Studios (which is now called CBS) released a statement dismissing the accusations. “We stand by the integrity of the Dr. Phil show, our editing process and the accuracy of the program that we aired. We will vigorously defend against these baseless claims.”

And don’t forget: he’s been sued unsuccessfully by other guests for defamation—such as Thomas Riccio, an instrumental witness in the O. J. Simpson civil case. (The defamation charges were thrown out and the case was settled).



3) Current Lawsuit: The Mysterious Brainwashing Case

In the crop of ongoing lawsuits, there’s the odd bit of alleged brainwashing and sexual harassment claimed by Shirley Rae Dieu, a 56-year-old Irvine, Calif., woman who said that during a group therapy session at the Dr. Phil House—which was being filmed for a show in 2007 (it aired in December 2007)—she had been held captive and “forced to be in the same room with a completely live naked man while he exposed his entire naked body, genitals and all.” In court docs, it says she was in treatment for her “problems with men.”

After an appeal by Dr. Phil, the case is moving forward. In an email to The Daily Beast, her attorney wrote, “The court disagreed with his attorney’s position and we are commencing discovery with the intent to take the matter to trial.” Dr. Phil’s lawyers deny all charges, and released a statement regarding Dieu’s case that read in part: “All of Shirley Rae Dieu’s claims are without merit. Dr. Phil is never alone in the House with any of these guests and all of his interactions are captured on video and/or audiotape…. Once Ms. Dieu expressed her discomfort, and producers ascertained there was nothing they could do to help her, they called a car service to return her to her home.”


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