Courts & Crime

Jury awards $16.5 million in radio station contest death

A Sacramento, Calif., Superior Court jury today awarded the survivors of Jennifer Lea Strange more than $16.5 million as a result of her death nearly three years ago in a water-drinking contest conducted by a local radio station.

In making the award, the seven-man, five-woman panel voted unanimously to find that Entercom Sacramento LLC, the local subsidiary of Entercom Communications Corp. of Philadelphia was negligent in putting on the contest that ultimately resulted in Strange's death.

The jury, also unanimously, exonerated the parent company.

Jurors also voted 10-2 that there was no contributory negligence on Strange's part.

"I'm very thankful and appreciative that the jurors took their time and that they held the appropriate people accountable," Jennifer Strange's widower, Billy Strange, told reporters after the verdict was read.

Roger A. Dreyer, the attorney who represented Billy Strange and the two young children he had with Jennifer Strange, said the verdict will send a message to media outlets nationwide.

"This is a very powerful verdict that's gong to resonate across the country to the media," Dreyer said. "Every single radio station is going to understand what happened today. I don't know about you, but the size of the number is a pretty substantial sum. They're going to pay attention to it.

"I'm confident we're going to see how they administer everything across the board on contests. That's what this jury has done, more than anything," Dreyer added.

Charles Sipkins, a Los Angeles-based spokesman for Entercom, called the woman's death "a tragedy."