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DJs Warned of Contest Dangers

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/01/26 17:15

Disc jockeys hosting an on-air water-drinking contest should have summoned medical help when a woman complained her head hurt and noted that her belly was so swollen she looked pregnant, said an attorney for a family suing for wrongful death.

Instead, "The talent verbally chastised and otherwise coerced her, exhorting her to remain in the contest by threatening that she would be disqualified if she 'puked,'" according to the lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of 28-year-old Jennifer Lea Strange's family.

The mother of three died Jan. 12, just hours after drinking as much as two gallons of water in the contest to win a video game console. In the lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, the family claims the DJs on the "Morning Rave" program on KDND-FM knew of the potential dangers of drinking too much water, yet went ahead with the contest anyway.

"The talent admitted during the broadcast that they should have done more research once various participants, including (Strange), began to report medical symptoms," it said. "Such conduct was despicable and so vile, base or contemptible that it would be looked down upon and despised by reasonable people."

Strange was one of about 18 contestants who tried to win a Nintendo Wii gaming console by seeing how much water they could drink without going to the bathroom. The DJs called the contest "Hold your Wee for a Wii."

"They keep telling me that it's the water. That it will tell my head to hurt and then it will make me puke," Strange said, according to an audio tape of the show.

At one point during the contest, a listener who identified herself as a nurse called in to warn the disc jockeys that the stunt could be fatal.

"Yeah, we're aware of that," one of the DJs responded to the caller's warning, the lawsuit said.

Another DJ said with laugh: "Yeah, they signed releases, so we're not responsible. We're OK."

The family claims Strange never signed a liability waiver. Instead, the form merely granted the station permission to use the contestants' names and photos for promotions, said the family's attorney, Roger Dreyer.

"I guarantee you if there was a waiver of liability they would have produced it," Dreyer said at a news conference.

The Sacramento-area station fired 10 employees after Strange's death.

The lawsuit names as defendants KDND's parent company, Entercom/Sacramento, as well as employees and managers who organized, promoted and participated in the contest.

The radio station would not comment directly about Thursday's lawsuit, Entercom spokesman Charles Sipkins said.

"We reiterate our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Strange family, but we do not comment on pending litigation," he said.

Sipkins said he did not know whether the DJs jockeys had retained their own attorneys.

After several hours of drinking water, Strange relented and accepted the second-place prize, tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert. Her mother, Nina Hulst, found her dead several hours later at the family's home in Rancho Cordova, a Sacramento suburb.

"I want nobody else to have to suffer the pain that our family is suffering," Hulst said at the news conference.

The Federal Communications Commission has joined the investigation into Strange's death at the request of the family's attorneys, spokesman Clyde Ensslin said. He said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was "troubled" by the information in the letter.

If it finds wrongdoing, the FCC could fine the station or deny its license renewal application.


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