Nov. 2, 2009— -- The husband of a California woman who died after participating in a radio station's water drinking contest said he hopes a jury's $16.5 million compensation award following a wrongful death lawsuit will send a message to other corporations dealing with the public.
"It was a preventable thing," Billy Strange told "Good Morning America" today of his wife's 2007 death from water toxicity. The radio station, he said, "had the information months in advance that this could cause harm."
After two weeks of deliberations, jurors last week found Entercom Sacramento LLC, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Entercom Communications Corp., liable for the actions of its employees at Sacramento radio station KDND-FM, the Associated Press reported.
Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old mother of three, was among 18 people who entered the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" competition. They tried to drink as much water as they could without urinating in a bid to win a Nintendo Wii gaming console.
Though the defense argued that Strange should have accepted some responsibility in knowing that drinking so much water was dangerous, Billy Strange's attorney Roger Dreyer told "GMA" that she acted as any normal person would have in those circumstances.
"She acted based upon the information she had," Dreyer said, calling the ruling "vindication for Jennifer." "We believe that people are constantly told we should drink water."
Strange drank nearly two gallons of water in over three hours on Jan. 12, 2007. During the contest, she could be heard complaining about pain to disc jockeys at 107.9 "The End."
"Oh, it hurts," Strange said, while one male disc jockey remarked that she looked pregnant and another, a woman, said "That is so funny."
Listeners including Eva Brooks had even called into the show to warn about the potential consequences of the game.
"Those people that are drinking all that water can get sick and possibly die from water intoxication," Brooks said, to which disc jockeys replied they "were aware of that" and that contestants had signed a release "so we're not responsible."
Strange left after taking second place, winning a pair of concert tickets. She then called in sick at work and died in her bathroom just hours after the contest.
Dreyer charged that even after getting phone calls -- one from a nurse -- the DJs did not pass along information about the dangers of drinking too much water to the contestants. Midway through the contest, he said, the amount of water given to the participants was doubled.