Jury Awards $16.5 Million to Family of Mother Who Died after Radio Station Contest
ABC News reports that a jury has awarded $16.5 million to the family of a woman in a wrongful death lawsuit against a radio station. Jennifer Strange, 28, was among the 18 contestants who drank as much water as possible without urinating in the “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest from KDND-FM in Sacramento, CA. The prize: A Nintendo Wii video game system. The outcome of the contest: an unnecessary death due to water intoxication.
Jennifer’s husband Billy Strange said that the radio station known as 107.9 The End “had the information months in advance that this could cause harm.”
“It was a preventable thing,” he said.
Strange family attorney Roger Dreyer said that Jennifer Strange acted as any normal person would have under the circumstances.
“She acted based upon the information she had,” Dreyer said
Strange drank nearly two gallons of water during three hours in the contest on January 17, 2007. During the contest, she complained about pain to the radio station DJs while on the air.
“Oh, it hurts,” Strange said as the DJs made jokes and laughed.
Remarkably, listeners - even one nurse - called into the station to warn the DJs that the contest was dangerous and could lead to death.
Listener Eva Brooks said, “Those people that are drinking all that water can get sick and possibly die from water intoxication.”
The DJs said that they were aware of that, and that the station was not responsible because all of the contestants had signed release forms. The DJs did not warn contestants about the possibility of water intoxication and death.
One DJ said on the air, “Can you get water poisoning and like die?”
“Not with water,” said another DJ. Your body is 98 percent water. Why can’t you take in as much water as you want?”
“Maybe we should have researched this before,” said the other DJ.
Strange won a pair of concert tickets in the contest after winning second place. She called in sick at work and then died in her bathroom hours after the contest. A coroner ruled that the death was due to water intoxication.
After the verdict was announced, juror LaTeshia Paggett commented that the contest had never been reviewed by the station’s legal department “and it was supposed to go to legal.”
Entercom Sacramento LLC, the company that owns the radio station, released a statement which called the death “a tragedy.”
Billy Strange said that adjusting to life without his wife is a “one step at a time process.”
Jennifer Strange’s daughter was just 11 months old when her mother died. Billy Strange says that his daughter reflects her mother’s qualities: “In the brief amount of time she got to spend with Jen, the 11 months, she really picked up on a lot of her qualities and her personality.”
The jury deliberated for two weeks before delivering the $16.5 million award. Ten radio station employees have been fired because of the contest.
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