'Dr. Phil' critic wants court to set aside settlement

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PHOENIX -- A Phoenix man is asking a court to set aside a settlement agreement and clear the way for a $100 million lawsuit against Dr. Phil McGraw and the producers of his TV show for discrimination.

Neal David Sutz said staff members at the "Dr. Phil" show discriminated against him after he told them he had bipolar disorder.

Sutz said he was to be a member of the audience in September 2003, and told staff members about his disorder after he and the rest of the audience were asked to sign a waiver saying they did not have a mental illness and weren't under psychiatric care.

After he told them about his illness, Sutz said he was told not to speak during the show or communicate with McGraw or staff members.

"I was discriminated against because I was among a couple hundred other people who were all allowed to attend the 'Dr. Phil' show as audience members, allowed to speak, allowed to interact, allowed to ask questions," Sutz said in an interview with The Associated Press. "And I was the only one singled out when it was made clear that I had bipolar disorder. As soon as they found out I had a mental illness, they said, 'Can't speak."'

Sutz said he and the show's producers came to a non-monetary settlement in 2004.

McGraw spokeswoman Theresa Corigliano said in a statement that the show's staff has always treated audience members, including Sutz, with dignity and respect.

"He resolved his earlier issues against the show," according to the statement, "and for him to try to reassert old, meritless claims is unfortunate."

In a court motion filed Nov. 9, Sutz is asking a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to dismiss the settlement because he says "Dr. Phil" hasn't kept a verbal agreement to run a disclaimer after each show long enough for viewers to read and understand.

The disclaimer, which was shown for 12 seconds after a recent show, tells viewers that the opinions expressed are educational and informational, are directed at individual guests, and that viewers who need help should consult a health care professional.

Sutz said he would be allowed to file his lawsuit if the judge rescinds the settlement. A court date hasn't been set.

A spokeswoman for Harpo Productions, which was founded by Oprah Winfrey and produces "Dr. Phil," declined to comment, saying only that they had not been served.
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