Man Sues 'Fear Factor' After Getting Sick--Isn't That the Point?
It was bound to happen eventually. A viewer watching an especially disgusting episode of "Fear Factor" has sued NBC for $2.5 million because it made him sick. The handwritten suit, filed in Cleveland by a paralegal, complains that he threw up after watching an episode in which contestants were made to "eat and drink dead rats."
This suit, like so many others, is a classic case of "I knew it was going to be bad, just not that bad," said Justin Wineburgh, an entertainment attorney with Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia. "Was it foreseeable that he was going to get sick? Sure, that's what the show is aiming for." Wineburgh said the plaintiff could have avoided illness, "if he had used common sense."
Ever since "Fear Factor" hit the airwaves in 2001 it has topped the gross meter, proving once again that people will do anything for money. And as long as the participants sign waivers that they're willing to perform the stunts, no matter what they are, the producers and studios are protected from lawsuits.
But when it comes to the viewers, well, that's a whole other animal.
For a host of legal reasons, including First Amendment issues, Wineburgh expects the suit will be tossed out of court. But he points to it as a reminder for reality TV shows to mind their "p's," "q's" and disclaimers more carefully, perhaps.
"Fear Factor" airs a disclaimer at the beginning of the show, but that's it. Wineburgh said that when MTV's "Jackass," a stunt-based show, was still on the air, it ran a disclaimer after every commercial break. "If you don't tune in at the beginning (of Fear Factor), you might miss the disclaimer," he said. The lesson to be learned here is that maybe the plaintiff should stick to watching "Dr. Phil."
March 1, 2005
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