Jennifer Strange Trial: Entercom Sacramento Negligent

After nine days of intense deliberations, a jury of seven men and five women today rendered a verdict against a local Sacramento radio station in the civil trial of William A. Strange et al v. Entercom Sacramento LLC and Entercom Communications Inc. et al. The trial was to determine accountability for the death of Jennifer Strange, who died as a result of a water drinking contest sponsored by Entercom Sacramento’s radio station KDND.

By unanimous vote, the jury decided that Entercom Sacramento was negligent in Strange’s death; by unanimous vote, they also decided that the parent company, Entercom Communications of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania was not responsible. By a vote of ten to two, the jury decided that Jennifer Strange did not contribute to her own death.

Economic damages were assessed at $1,477,118. Non-economic damages were assessed at $15,100,000.

Jurors said finding Entercom Sacramento negligent was a relatively simple decision, mostly because Entercom on-air employees ignored phone calls warning them of the dangers of the contest. They said they believed it was the responsibility of Entercom Sacramento to vet the contest with the parent company’s legal department, which employees failed to do.

However, jurors reported that they were sharply divided over other issues in the case. They said no one thought Jennifer was 100 percent responsible for her death, but that two jurors thought she shared some responsibility. As only nine jurors had to agree to render a verdict, that issue was quickly decided. Deciding non-economic damages proved much more difficult, and took days of deliberations. According to juror LaTeshia Paggett, some jurors thought that criteria they’d been instructed to consider for compensation like love, companionship, and moral guidance were invaluable, and as such, the family should receive zero compensation for those areas. She said other jurors disagreed sharply and felt the compensation should have been as high as $48 million dollars. In the end, according to juror Tammy Elliott, the jury agreed to averaging the dollar amount each juror felt appropriate. "Each juror’s number was weighted equally," Elliott said.

According to Entercom’s annual report, Entercom Communications reports a 2008 revenue of $439 million; Sacramento is one of their more profitable markets.

The FCC is still investigating the incident.

See the Jennifer Strange story and hear actual contest audio in Public Interest Picture’s Broadcast Blues.  For complete trial coverage and analysis of the trial, visit .



  • Finally justice is done ! and correct decisions made. I disagree with the way the settlement amount was calculated…but I wasn’t in the jury box. Also the fact that anyone could think Jennifer was in anyway responsible for any of this makes me ill. I knew her well, she would NEVER have put herself in such a situation if she had known or been told of the danger or severity of the act, especially not to her children or her family. The fault and responsiblity of her death has been placed on the correct parties. Rest in peace ……finally.
    Carol Bullivant

  • So. She enters a contest, knowing that there’s a chance of water poisoning, drinks ON HER OWN VOLITION two gallons of water at one time and dies, and she’s not responsible for her own death? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What the **** has happened to personal responsibility? Yeah, this was a really stupid contest with the potential for a tragic outcome, but please. This woman knew what she was doing and did it anyway, for a stupid game system for her kids to sit on their butts playing. Stupid is as stupid does.

  • Ben Ilfeld

    Click the green “storyline” button on the right to see more trial coverage.

  • M@ Urquhart

    the fact that the contest took place at all demonstrates that it is not common knowledge that drinking excessive amounts of water can be fatal. that alone is her defense. the onus is then on the organizers to take responsibility – if they were stupid enough not to have checked on possible consequences they deserve the punishment when someone gets hurt.

    • In the end, is it not the Entercom employees and customer who get punished with this high fine, resulting in tighter budgets and increased cost of service? When the business is run by the P and L, the ratios are always, eventually, brought into balance. Sad story, sad result for all.

  • bye bye Sacpress

    Carol, I am sorry you lost a friend.

    However it makes me ill that our society has decided that individuals no longer are responsible for there own voluntary actions. Like we are children, or farm animals.

    It makes me ill to hear that the father of one of Jennifer’s children who had been out of the picture suddenly returns to the scene to grab a piece of the jackpot.

    It makes me ill that the message to Jennifer’s kids is “if you die, someone else must be responsible, and you deserve a big payday”.

    People die. Entecomm did nothing criminal (hence no criminal prosecution). By the logic of this jury, there really is no situation where a death can’t somehow be blamed on someone else.