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Dr. Phil and CBS have settled a lawsuit by two women who claimed they were held captive against their will and forced to be in a room with a naked man.
On Thursday, the parties requested that the lawsuit be voluntarily dismissed. TMZ confirms a settlement, although the terms of the agreement haven’t been released.
If the women got any money out of this, it’s the surprising culmination to a case we initially called “one of the strangest lawsuits we’ve seen in awhile.”
Shirley Dieu and Crystal Matchett alleged they were lured by promises of getting personal counseling from Dr. Phil himself, only to be locked in a building, surrounded by 12-feet walls and fences restraining them from trying to escape. The women claimed they were brainwashed and “forced to be in the same room with a completely naked live man while he exposed his entire naked body, genitals and all.”
Initially, the women were representing themselves and filed seemingly paranoid complaints in LA Superior Court, but they hired an attorney who filed consolidated claims against the show. More careful legal analysis put the women’s allegations in a more serious light: They were filming an episode of the Dr. Phil show in 2007 when they were allegedly held against their will in a “mock house” on a sound stage.
The real question in the case became whether the show’s producers had made the proper representations when the women signed the waivers to agree to appear on the show.
CBS filed an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that its conduct was protected free speech.
The judge denied the motion and it was upheld on appeal. The California Court of Appeals ruled last January that while trashy reality television can qualify for First Amendment protection, there may have been misrepresentations, and the plaintiffs hadn’t waived their right to pursue claims including fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The women were determined to have demonstrated a likelihood of prevailing.
Undoubtedly, that gave the women leverage in settlement talks ahead of a trial. Now, this lawsuit has been settled, proving that even the most strange claims shouldn’t summarily be dismissed.
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