Courts & Crime

Sacramento radio station on trial in water-drinking contest death

The radio station made up the contest rules "on the spot," the plaintiffs' attorneys said, in pursuit of "sheer entertainment value" and top ratings in the Sacramento market. The result: a young mom who died trying to win a popular video game for her family.

But if the outcome was tragic, defense lawyers argued, still far from predictable was that anybody could die in a water-drinking contest. And if anybody was negligent, they said some of the responsibility has to be placed on the victim herself.

More than 2 1/2 years after 31-year-old Jennifer Strange succumbed from the contest put on by the country's eighth-largest broadcasting company, jury selection in the wrongful death trial is scheduled to begin today in Sacramento Superior Court.

It's a case that will determine if Philadelphia-based Entercom Communications Corp. and the general manager of its six-station Sacramento subsidiary are responsible for the contest death that left three children motherless and a husband a widower, and if so, how much the company should pay.

Attorneys have been barred from talking about the case because of a gag order imposed by Judge Lloyd A. Phillips, but they communicated their thoughts loud and clear in trial briefs filed last month.

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