Dr. Phil And CBS Hit With Lawsuit Over Teen's Alleged Sexual Assault At Treatment Facility

Over the many years that he's hosted CBS' popular daytime series Dr. Phil and other projects, its host Phil McGraw has been viewed as both a beacon of hope and also a mustachioed punchline, and just about everything in between. But there's nothing hopeful or amusing about a lawsuit filed against McGraw and CBS by a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted at a Utah ranch for troubled teens that she was sent to after appearing on the show. 

Hannah Archuleta appeared on Dr. Phil with her family in October 2019, after her parents sought help from the clinical psychologist's TV show. Archuleta, who was 17 years old at the time, was said to be having suicidal thoughts. During the episode, McGraw told her she needed to go to the Turn-About Ranch in Escalante, Utah if she wanted to have any shot at saving herself. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claims that the TV show's staff was very invested in the family's struggles, per the L.A. Times, to the point where action was taken that very day of the episode's taping, despite her mother (who has since passed away) reportedly having a panic attack backstage.

Staff members reportedly promised the Archuleta family that Dr. Phil would provide further help after the point when a medical service drove her from the Paramount Studios soundstage to the airport, where the teen was then flown to the Utah cattle ranch. It's claimed that the show provided the air fare and car rentals, with meals and lodging also paid for, which presumably helped in convincing everyone it was a good idea. Not to mention how positively the ranch touts itself on its website

However, it was only after some weeks at the Turn-About Ranch where the lawsuit alleges Hannah Archuleta was groped on two occasions by an unidentified male staff member. At the time, Archuleta wrote to her parents in Colorado, and her father reportedly went to the facility and removed his daughter from the program, after which they reported the issue to the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. It was apparently after this when the Archuletas looked into the history of the Turn-About Ranch, as the lawsuit also claims that they were not advised of other problematic incidents that allegedly took place there. 

The lawsuit, which is being handled by Gloria Allred, seeks unspecified damages from Phil McGraw, CBS, and various other production companies for negligence. While ViacomCBS has not released any public statements, McGraw's spokesman Jerry Sharell released the following:

After Hannah Archuleta’s appearance on Dr. Phil in 2019, her parents chose to seek treatment at Turn-About Ranch. None of the defendants in this case had anything to do with her program at that facility, as documents signed by the Archuletas reflect. We understand that she subsequently sued Turn-About Ranch but that case was dismissed and recently refiled. This case will be vigorously contested.

Jerry Sharell also contested the lawsuit's suggestion that Dr. Phil and/or someone invovled with it has financial ties to the Turn-About Ranch. Speaking to his above statement, the Archuletas did file a spearate lawsuitin Utah against the ranch, with claims of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring and supervision.

This is hardly the first time former Dr. Phil guests have made disturbing allegations about the show, particularly when it comes to stories about disciplining troubled teens. (Not everyone can turn appearances into millions of dollars like Bhad Bhabie, of course.) The Doctors, which McGraw is a producer for, has had its own share of accusations and problems, as has another series the talk show doctor is invovled with, CBS' Bull, which said goodbye to star Freddy Rodriguez after a network investigation.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.