‘Fear Factor’ Caused a Lawsuit Thanks to a Viewer Injuring Himself While Watching

Fear Factor dominated screens in the early 2000s. Viewers tuned in to watch the reality TV show due to its over-the-top games and stunts. In this winner-takes-all show, contestants were required to participate in daredevil stunts and eat live insects to walk away with the grand prize.

Although the show enjoyed immense popularity, it got plagued with several controversies throughout its time on air. One viewer even filed a lawsuit against the show after he injured himself while watching it

Fear Factor contestant in a box wearing goggles with an animal handler putting a scorpions on their head
Fear Factor | Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Fear Factor was a daredevil stunt game show

Fear Factor was an American stunt game that first aired on NBC on June 11, 2001. The show was an adaptation of an almost similar Dutch show called Now or Never. In Fear Factor, contestants were pitted against each other in a range of three difficult stunts.

The contestants who get through all the stunts walk away with the grand prize of $50,000. For its first five seasons, Fear Factor mainly focused on pitting three women and three men against each other. However, toward the sixth season, Fear Factor began introducing teams with a preexisting relationship, for example, mother and son or husband and wife teams.

UFC commentator and comedian Joe Rogan was the show’s initial host until its cancelation in September 2006. Ludacris took over after the show’s revival in 2017. Rogan said in an interview once that he took the show to find fodder for his comedy shows. He didn’t expect that the show would be as popular as it had been.

Rogan expected that Fear Factor would get canceled after some episodes due to the several objections that the show’s content had. The series’ first four seasons were a major hit. The ratings were at an all-time high.

However, toward the beginning of the fifth season, the ratings began declining. By the time the sixth season rolled around, the ratings had dropped significantly due to the show’s content concerns. Additionally, Fear Factor had to compete for a time slot with other TV shows such as the then-new American Idol. Consequently, Fear Factor got canceled in September 2006.

The show has had its fair share of controversy

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As mentioned above, Fear Factor was a stunt game show. Contestants were required to go through a series of tough to beat stunts and eat gross things to walk away with the prize money. Although such content had helped Fear Factor grow in popularity during its first few seasons, the daredevil stunts soon became the show’s undoing.

Various organizations such as the American Humane Association came forward to argue that the show allowed the injuring and harming of animals during its stunts. The consumption of live insects and videotaping the process was objected to by the AHA, who termed it inhumane.

In another stunt, contestants had to climb through a simulated electrified wire substation. The Edison Electrical Institute warned the show against airing such episodes as it would make it OK for people at home to replicate the stunts resulting in potential harm.

The disgusting stunts invited a lawsuit from one of the show’s viewers

It is safe to say that Fear Factor wasn’t for the weak. The stunts, especially the consumption stunts, even disgusted the contestants themselves, with some backing out after knowing what they would need to do for the prize.

Rogan himself has often stated his disdain for the stunts. He even said that after the show got revived, he took up the job offer to host the show but soon regretted it, as he hated the stunts.

During the fifth season of the show, an episode was aired that featured a stunt where contestants had to drink blended rat juice. One paralegal by the name of Austin Aitken ended up suing NBC for a whopping $2.5 million, according to Screenrant.

In the lawsuit, Aitken alleged that he felt so disgusted while watching the episode that his blood pressure rose until he got lightheaded. Aitkens said that he ended up vomiting. The Ohio paralegal claimed that the stunt disoriented him to the point of running into a doorway, thus seriously injuring himself.

Cleveland19 reports that the lawsuit was thrown out, and the presiding judge, Lesley Wells, termed it as frivolous. Judge Wells even warned Aitken against appealing.