Witness testimony in Jennifer Strange Lawsuit

September 21, 2009

The first witness was Steve Maney, one of three on-air hosts of the Morning Rave show which sponsored the water drinking contest which resulted in the death of 28 year old Jennifer Strange,

Plaintiff attorney Roger Dreyer established that Entercom Market Manager John Geary had complete authority over the radio station. 

Maney then talked about a previous contest suggested at KDND, one called Piercing Plinko, and how it involved contestants spinning a wheel with pictures of bady parts on it;  that part would then have to be pierced.  He said station manager Steve Weed and Promotions Director Robin Pechota said they'd have to go to their attorney in Pennsylvania to get it green lighted.  This contest was not approved; Maney said it was nixed above Weed's head, wither by Geary or Masi.

Dreyer asked if there was a written rule that employees should not do anything dangerous;  Maney answered there was an unwritten rule.

Dreyer established several times that it was not Maney's job to vet contests for danger, that that was the duty of Pechota, Weed, or on the Corporate level, attorney Carmela Masi 

Dreyer showed Maney a contest manual from March 2001, written just months prior to Maney's hiring in May.  Maney testified he never saw that contest manual.  Dreyer showed Maney the specific verbage that contests should not be illegal, dangerous, or rigged;  Maney said he never saw the document.  

Dreyer next introduced the email of 8-31-06 from Masi about contest guidleines.  Maney testified he'd never seen that document.  Dreyer showed Maney the subsection in that document that said an on air announcement of contest rules must be run at least once a day in the week preceding the contest, this on air announcer said he had never seen that document either.  He said at times on air talent would be told what to read on the air, but his co-worker Lukas would read that.   Dreyer showed Maney the Power Point Presentation regarding contest guidelines, he had never been trained on that either.  He said he was told verbally what the rules would be.    He said he was never told that material terms of a contest must be read on the air.  Was his co-worker Lukas (real name: Adam Cox) told?  He sadi no.  Did he ever hear Lukas read rules on the air, he said no.

Dreyer showed him another subsection of the Entercom Corporate policy regarding contests that said contest rules must be disclosed in writing and on air;  he said he was never told about that.

Dreyer then moved onto the Release for All Claims Including Personal Injury which all the "Wii" contestants had to sign.  He said he did not create that form.  (The judge later instructed the jury that this document under California law did not constitute a waiver, but that the jury may consider it regarding the state of mind and conduct of the Entercom employees and also of Jennifer Strange.

Maney testified that they came up with the Wii contest idea at a morning brainstorming meeting, and the next thing he knew they were going forward with it.  He believed it had been approved.

Had Maney ever heard of Hyponatremia?  He said no.  Of water intoxication?  No. 

After lunch, Maney again said he'd never seen the written rules.  Was vomiting discussed? He didn't remember.  Were medical personnel ever brought up at the planning meeting?  He did not believe so. 

Dreyer again showed some of the written rules about contests provided by Entercom.  He showed a section which talked about "participants acknowledge participation may be hazardous and involve physical contact,"  language that was not included in the release the contestants signed.  Dreyer asked if Maney was aware that attorney Masi had an unwritten rule that medical personnel must be on hand for any contests involving ingestion or physicality;  Maney said no.   He said he did not remember reading any rules on the air, although his partner Lukas may have done so, he could not recall.   He also could not recall whether on air talent ever said on the air that if you vomit or deficate you would be out of the contest.  Dreyer played several promotions for the contest;  they dealt with getting qualified to participate by telling a story of receiving a bad Christmas gift.

When asked whether the Chico water drinking death was ever raised at the planning meeting, Maney testified he did not think so. He said he had no knowledge that someone in the competition could die, or get violently ill. 

Dreyer played the clip from the contest where on air talent Trish said, "Can't you get water poisoning and like die?"  When asked if he'd ever heard of water intoxication, Maney said no.  When asked about the Chico incident, Maney said he knew it was a hazing, but no details.

Gag guy Fester said in the clip he wanted to see the rules, and Dreyer asked whether Maney knew specifically what the rules were;  Maney did not recall.

Dreyer asked about producer Liz Diaz saying she had been getting a lot of calls about the dangers of the contest, Maney said she told him people were calling, but said he did not remember if she said someone could die.

They discussed the change in the rules midway through the program, going from eight ounce bottles to 16.9 ounce bottles.  That decision Maney said, had to come from the promotions office.

Then something which undercut the defense opening statement, that contestants in the kitchen could hear the "Eva" call, where she specifically warned that people could die from water intoxication.  Maney explained why people are asked to turn off their radios when they call a radio show, as they have a seven second delay, and that it creates unwanted feedback.  Dreyer replayed the Eva call, and Carter, who was in the kitchen with the contestants, was on the phone with the hosts in the booth.  Maney said if Carter was on the phone, the radio would have been turned off.

Dreyer played more clips of contestants becoming ill, and asked Maney whether he had any training in psychology about behavior in a competition of this nature?  Maney said he had not.

Maney said he escorted Jennifer out to the lobby after the contest was over, and that she felt ill, and her stomach was distended.  He told her she could stay there until she felt better.  No medical personnel were called, and Maney said he did not know that headaches, lightheadedness and bloating were classic symptoms of hyponatremia.

Several questions were posed about Market Manager John Geary's involvement or knowledge of the contest.  Maney said Geary never asked what the noisy contest was about.

Defense attorney Doug Sullivan then asked Maney whether he believe Jennifer could be harmed; Maney said no.  With regard to contest guidelines, Maney said he was aware that they could not do contests which are illegal.  Was he aware that Entercom had a policy not to put people at risk?  Maney said not written policy but general policy.

He reminded Maney about his deposition where he said Weed and Pechota had communicated to him there was a culture of safety at KDND.   And he noted that market manager Geary had not ben copied on the emails directly concerning the contest.

Defense attorney Don Carlson asked about Maney having put the rules on the website.  He did remember putting something up, which he took down after the contest was over.

Carlson elicited that Maney had no expectation of being trained in Weed or Pechota's job concerning contest rules. 

Maney said that even when contestant Victoria Myers became ill, he did not think the contest was dangerous.

And he said he had no memory of a Morning Rave show where they talked about the Chico water drinking death of Matthew Carrington.

Peter Inzerillo was the next witness.  He said he specifically remembered the December 2006 program where he and the on air talent joked about the Chico water drinking death of Matthew Carrington.  He further said he was referrring back to that show in a clip from the Wii contest, where he said in repsonse to Trish's comment, "Can't you get water poisioning and like, die?"  He remarked,  "that poor kid who died," only to be cut off by the other on air hosts. 

Inzerillo further said he had participated in other contests where there were no rules, and he had been given none for the Wii contest.    

The day ended with Inzerillos' testimony that drinking a lot of water would have ill effects, which he learned first hand during that 12-06 show when they made fun of the Chico death, and he drank about two gallons of water himself and felt ill.

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