Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jury Finds Entercom Negligent in Jennifer Strange Trial

A jury has awarded $16.57 million in damages to the family of a woman who died of water intoxication after competing in a water-drinking contest in Jan. 2007. The "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest was sponsored by KDND 107.9 "The End" in Sacramento.

Jennifer Strange, 28, a mother of three, finished in second place but was complaining of a headache and an upset stomach toward the end of the contest. She called in sick to her employer and went home, where her mother found her body that afternoon.

As a result of Strange's death, KDND fired 10 employees, including the three hosts of the "Morning Rave" program, which held the contest, and the show was taken off the air. No criminal charges were filed, but Strange's family filed a civil wrongful-death suit against KDND's owner, Entercom, which finally came to trial in Sept. 2009. The jury deliberated for nine days before reaching its decision on Oct. 29.

Entercom Sacramento was declared negligent because the jury found that disc jockeys and station managers ignored warnings about the hazards of the contest. Tapes of the "Morning Rave" program revealed that the hosts were joking about the contestants throwing up and about the possibility that someone could die. They continued joking even after several calls from listeners, warning them that drinking too much water was dangerous.

Entercom spokesman Charles Sipkins issued a statement saying, “Jennifer Strange’s death was a tragedy. Our hearts go out to all of her loved ones, including, in particular, her husband and children. While legal restrictions preclude us from commenting further on the verdict, we respect the jury’s decision and hope that it will assist the Strange family in coping with its loss.”

The FCC also began an investigation after the incident, to determine whether KDND violated the terms of its operating license, but no results have been announced from that investigation. Strange's family had urged them to revoke KDND's license, but the FCC typically leaves cases of negligence resulting in harm to individuals to the courts to resolve.

KDND, which broadcasts a CHR format, recently launched commercial-free programming every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to midnight.

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