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Family Awarded $16 Million for Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against California Radio Station

November 6, 2009

As California Employment and Labor Attorneys, we have been following the Jennifer Strange wrongful death lawsuit verdict, announced last week, where a Sacramento jury awarded the Strange family $16,577,118 in compensation, after Strange died within hours of participating in the station's 2007 Radio Contest.

Jennifer Strange, 28, was a mother of three children from Rancho Cordova, and died from water intoxication, after trying to win the hard-to-get Nintendo Wii video game for her children in the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" radio station contest--where contestants competed against each other by drinking large amounts of water without urinating or vomiting.

Strange was one out of 20 contestants in the KDND-FM "The End" (107.9 FM) morning radio show contest and made it into the final round for the Nintendo Wii prize, when after swallowing nearly two gallons of water, she lost to another contestant. After coming in second place, Strange and the winner of the contest reportedly raced to the bathroom to vomit. Strange then called in sick to work, complaining of a stomachache and a headache, and was found hours later dead in her home.

The tape of the program, called "Morning Rave" on KDND-FM revealed that during the contest, the station received warnings about the potential fatal effects of this stunt, and that during the program listeners expressed concerns that drinking large amounts of water was dangerous. One DJ reportedly mentioned the 2005 death of a college student, due to water intoxication during a Chico hazing ritual. The on-air hosts reportedly laughed about the contest stating that the participants had signed waivers releasing the station for liability with the contest.

The Sacramento County Superior Court jury found the radio station KDND-FM's owner, Entercom Sacramento negligent after ignoring multiple warnings that this contest could have fatal consequences. The jury also found that by holding this contest, the DJs and the station managers acted negligently within the scope and course of their employment, and that their employee negligence for public safety harmed Strange. The parent company Entercom Communications was not found responsible, as it was the responsibility of Entercom Sacramento employees to pre-approve the contest with the legal department of the parent company--which the employees neglected to do.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the jury of this California wrongful death lawsuit awarded $1,477,118 in economic damages to Strange's husband, two children, and to Ronald Sims, the father and guardian of Jennifer Strange's 13-year-old son. The jurors also awarded the plaintiffs $15.1 million for the loss of Strange's love, companionship, care, protection, comfort, affection, guidance, and support.

Sacramento is reportedly one of the more profitable markets for Entercom Communications. The communications company reported a 2008 revenue of $439 million. The FCC is reportedly still investigating this incident.

Sacramento Jury Awards $16.6 Million for Mom's Death in Wii Radio Contest, Sacramento Bee, October 30, 2009

Jury Awards $16 Million to Family in Fatal Ratio Prank, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2009

Jury Says Radio Station Must Pay $16.6M in Woman's Water Intoxication Death, ABA Journal, October 30, 2009

Jennifer Strange Trial: Entercom Sacramento Negligent, Sacramento Press, October 29, 2009

Jennifer Strange's Family Awarded $16.5 Million in "Wee for Wii" Contest Death, CBS News, October 30, 2009

Jury Awards $16 Million in Damages to Jennifer Strange Family, Fox 40 News, October 29, 2009

Related Web Resources:

Federal Communications Commission, (FCC)