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January 14, 2007

A future law school exam question (or Law & Order episode)

This AP story is not (yet) about sentencing, but it caught my eye in part because I have been having Wii wants for weeks:

A woman who competed in a radio station's contest to see how much water she could drink without going to the bathroom died of water intoxication, the coroner's office said Saturday. Jennifer Strange, 28, was found dead Friday in her suburban Rancho Cordova home hours after taking part in the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest in which KDND 107.9 promised a Nintendo Wii video game system for the winner.

"She said to one of our supervisors that she was on her way home and her head was hurting her real bad," said Laura Rios, one of Strange's co-workers at Radiological Associates of Sacramento. "She was crying, and that was the last that anyone had heard from her." It was not immediately known how much water Strange consumed....

Initially, contestants were handed 8-ounce bottles of water to drink every 15 minutes. "They were small little half-pint bottles, so we thought it was going to be easy," said fellow contestant James Ybarra of Woodland. "They told us if you don't feel like you can do this, don't put your health at risk." Ybarra said he quit after drinking five bottles. "My bladder couldn't handle it anymore," he added. After he quit, he said, the remaining contestants, including Strange, were given even bigger bottles to drink. "I was talking to her and she was a nice lady," Ybarra said. "She was telling me about her family and her three kids and how she was doing it for her kids."

So, would-be California prosecutors, would you start a criminal investigation on these facts or just trust tort law or other civil mechanism to deal with this sad death?

January 14, 2007 at 08:38 AM | Permalink


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» Updated: Another Stupid Radio Promotion - Will it Result in Litigation? from TortsProf Blog
Respectful Insolence has the details, and a medical take. The basics (from the AP story):A woman who competed in a radio station's contest to see how much water she could drink without going to the bathroom died of water intoxication, [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 15, 2007 10:28:57 AM

» Fatal draught of water from Overlawyered
Tomorrow's headlines today on Overlawyered: scarcely had Ted speculated in this space (Jan. 12) about the possibility of warning on water bottles that excessive drinking of water can be fatal, than a sensational news story... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 15, 2007 10:51:26 PM


If I remember my 1L CrimLaw class correctly, one cannot consent to one's own homicide the way one can consent to, e.g., battery (or is that just murder and not manslaughter?). So the consent argument doesn't work.

Meanwhile, as to the elements, I qua prosecutor would argue that coaxing someone into performing a biologically unreasonable act (i.e., drinking and not urinating) without researching the potential health risks constitutes reckless disregard for human life within the common law / MPC meaning of the term (i.e., involuntary manslaughter) or certainly criminal megligence for the purporses of C.N. homicide.

But would I prosecute? Probably not.

As for tort law, the radio station was again clearly negligent for not researching the issue and therefore liable. I doubt an assumption of risk / comparative fault argument would work, because again a reasonable person would presume that the radio station researched the issue beforehand.

Posted by: KipEsquire | Jan 14, 2007 8:56:30 AM

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