Colorado teen Hannah Archuleta is suing Dr. Phil, after she said she was sexually assaulted at the treatment center he recommended when she appeared on his show in 2019. 

Archuleta filed suit against Dr. Phil and ViacomCBS in Los Angeles County Superior Court this week, alleging that she was sexually abused by a staff member at Turn-About Ranch in Escalante, Utah, a rehabilitation center for “troubled” youth. 

According to the suit, Dr. Phil and show staff pressured her parents to check her in to the ranch after she appeared on the daytime talk show to discuss her struggles with depression when she was 17.  

“Dr. Phil said that, ‘Hannah needs to go to the Ranch to have any chance at a good life,’” and that his staff would “‘help her right now and today,’” by arranging to fly her to Utah immediately after the show’s taping, according to the complaint.

On its website, Turn-About Ranch says it teaches “troubled” teens “concepts like leadership, teamwork, accountability, and responsibility” through talk therapy and “hard work.” 

Hannah Archuleta Claims Sexual Assault

In the complaint, Archuleta’s attorney — famed women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred — said that Dr. Phil and show staff offered to “pay expenses for everything, including car rental and airfare, meals, and lodging[.]”

But within weeks of her arrival, Archuleta said she was groped twice by a male employee at the ranch. 

According to the suit, she informed her father, who signed her out of the treatment center and filed a police report. The Garfield County Sheriff’s office confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that such a report was filed in December 2019.

Archuleta also said that the Dr. Phil staff had offered to assist in arranging medical care for her mother, Heather Archuleta, who was terminally ill and has since died. The complaint alleges that show staff never did so.

The court filing also notes that Dr. Phil, whose real name is Phil McGraw, is not licensed to practice psychology or medicine. He does, however, hold a doctorate in clinical psychology

The suit seeks damages for “physical sickness, emotional distress, humiliation,” and lost wages. Aside from Dr. Phil — whose real name is Phil McGraw — the suit names Peteski Productions, Dr. Phil’s company Stage 29 Productions, Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Broadcasting and ViacomCBS.

Lawyers for Archuleta have requested a jury trial for the civil suit. 

ViacomCBS reportedly did not respond to requests for comment by the Los Angeles Times. 

The Aruchleta family is also reportedly suing Turn-About Ranch in a separate suit filed this week. Archuleta had previously filed suit against the ranch in February, but that case was dismissed in June. 

Dr. Phil is being sued by Hannah Archuleta, a Colorado teen who says she was sexually abused at the Utah treatment center that he recommended when she appeared on his talk show.
Dr. Phil is being sued by Hannah Archuleta, a Colorado teen who says she was sexually abused at the Utah treatment center that he recommended when she appeared on his talk show. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Defendants Respond

During legal proceedings, Turn-About Ranch representatives told the Salt Lake Tribune they “took immediate action” when Archuleta first accused the employee. 

“Unfortunately, her father removed her from our facility before we could conduct a full inquiry,” they said in a statement. “Both she and her father were unwilling to communicate with us from that time. We interviewed other students and staff members and were unable to corroborate her story. We fully cooperated with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, but without further contact with the accusing party, our options were limited.”

Turn-About Ranch does not appear to have commented on the suits Archuleta filed this week. 

“After Hannah Archuleta’s appearance on ‘Dr. Phil’ in 2019, her parents chose to seek treatment at Turn-About Ranch,” said Jerry Sharell, a lawyer for Dr. Phil, in a statement. “None of the defendants in this case had anything to do with her program at that facility, as documents signed by the Archuletas reflect.”

He continued: “We understand that she subsequently sued Turn-About Ranch but that case was dismissed and recently refiled. This case will be vigorously contested.”

Sharell also dismissed the lawsuit’s claim that Dr. Phil has a business arrangement with Turn-About Ranch. 

“There are not and never have been financial ties to Turn-About Ranch,” he said.