The family of a woman who died after drinking nearly two gallons of water in a radio station’s on-air contest filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the station and dozens of its employees.
The lawsuit alleges that KDND-FM, DJs and other employees were negligent in failing to research the contest and warn participants about the risks, and that they failed to get medical help even after participants complained about getting sick.
“Such conduct was despicable and so vile, base or contemptible that it would be looked down upon and despised by reasonable people,” the lawsuit read.
Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for KDND’s parent company, Entercom/Sacramento, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Jennifer Lea Strange, 28, died Jan. 12, hours after finishing second in the contest on KDND’s “Morning Rave” program. The top prize of the contest, dubbed “Hold your Wee for a Wii,” was a Nintendo Wii video game console.
Strange was interviewed several hours into the program, saying she looked pregnant because her belly was swollen with water and complaining that her head hurt. “This is what it feels like when you’re drowning,” one of the disc jockeys said.
After one caller warned that water intoxication could be fatal, one DJ said, “Yeah, they signed releases, so we’re not responsible. We’re OK.”
The lawsuit lists 50 defendants, including Entercom, the disc jockeys who hosted the contest and employees and managers who organized, promoted and participated in it.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, seeks unspecified medical, legal, burial and funeral costs. It also seeks punitive damages for the loss of companionship for Strange’s husband, William, and the children, who are 11 months, 3 and 11 years old.
Also Thursday, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission said the agency has joined the investigation into Strange’s death at the request of the family. The family’s lawyers have asked that KDND be taken off the air.
Like most California radio stations, KDND’s broadcasting license expired on Dec. 1, 2005. The station’s renewal application is still pending, according to FCC records. The FCC could fine the station or deny its application for renewal if it finds wrongdoing.