SACRAMENTO—The parent company of a local radio station engaged in the first day of a wrongful death lawsuit after a contestant died on a morning drive program more than two years ago.
Entercom Communications Corporation, owner of six radio stations including KDND 107.9 FM "The End," was slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of Jennifer Strange, a contestant in the station's "Hold Your Wee For A Wii" promotion in January 2007. Contestants were challenged to consume several varying amounts of water over the course of the station's "Morning Rave" breakfast program. Participants forfeited the contest when they were unable to hold their urine or vomit after consuming the water, with the last contestant standing receiving a prize of a Nintendo Wii gaming console.
Prior to the start of the contest, a woman identifying herself as a nurse called the Morning Rave program, warning the disc jockeys that the contest could have dire health consequences. The DJs ignored the health advice and proceeded with the contest anyhow.
Strange is thought to have consumed more than two gallons of water before eventually accepting tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert as a consolation prize. Throughout the contest, Strange had complained of head pains while the DJs commented that her stomach looked bloated.
The mother of three was found dead in her Rancho Cordova home hours later by a relative shortly after the contest ended.
In response, KDND fired 10 staff members, including the DJs associated with the "Morning Rave" program and several members of the station's promotional team. Later, the station launched a new morning show, hiring three disc jockeys away from a Pennsylvania station. The station and the new morning show continues to dominate in demographic and overall ratings.
It's those ratings that attorneys for the plaintiffs in the wrongful death civil case say pushed the station in the direction that led to Strange's death.
"That is why Jennifer Strange died," a brief released by lawyers Roger Dreyer and Harvey Levine read. "Not because of an oversight, but because Entercom cared about ratings, not risk."
Jury selection in the wrongful death case began Tuesday morning, the same day KDND rolled out commercial-free radio weekly on Tuesday during peak listening hours. According to the Sacramento Bee, Entercom is thought to have lost $710 million last year despite having dominant ratings in the Sacramento market.
Entercom operates six radio stations in the Sacramento market, including five FM stations and one AM sports station.