In 2007, Jennifer Strange entered a radio contest called “hold your wee for a Wii” hoping she would win a Wii for her children. During the contest, participants consumed water over a brief period of time. If they urinated or vomited, they were disqualified.
Prior to the contest, the radio station received calls from people, including a nurse, warning the station that rapidly consuming water could be deadly. One of the DJs even talked about a prior incident where someone died from water intoxication.
Despite warnings, the station decided to go ahead with the contest and did not hire a medical professional to supervise the contest. The DJs, while on air, made jokes like, “They’re gonna throw up and they’re out of the contest before they die, right?” and “Is anyone dying back there?” To which another DJ replied “No, not yet, but one is about ready to die.”
Strange, a 28-year old mother of 3, was one of two contestants left by two and half hours in. She had consumed about one and half gallons of water. Suffering from a severe headache, nausea, and lightheadedness, Strange quit the contest and told the station’s employees that she was not feeling well enough to drive home. Employees told her to sit in the lobby until she felt better and did not contact any medical personnel.
Still vomiting, Strange drove herself home. She died six hours later from water intoxication.
The Strange family filed a lawsuit against the radio station and its owner, alleging that DJs negligently promoted a dangerous contest and failed to follow company guideline, which prohibited contest that were a safety risk or in bad taste.
With such a highly publicized event, the plaintiffs’ attorneys requested the court require all jurors sign a declaration that they would avoid electronic forums, such as the Internet and Twitter, while the trial was in progress. At the conclusion of the trial, jurors also signed a declaration stating that they had abided by their previous declaration.
The jury awarded the Strange family $16.56 million, which included $15.1 million in noneconomic damages, such as loss of consortium. The jury found the radio station 100% liable for Jennifer Strange’s death. The parties later settled for $16.5 million.
This award will affect the decisions of every radio station and protect families throughout the country.
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