I referenced the story of this woman’s death in a comment on another post – the comment was about the fact that many “poisons” in tiny quantities are harmless, and even things our bodies need in certain amounts, can, in overdose quantities, become poisons.
In this particular instance, the poison was a substance without which we cannot live… water.
According to the story, the jury found that the station was responsible for the death of contestant Jennifer Strange because those involved with the contest had warnings that something like what occurred might happen.
I’ve got to agree with this one, though it’s really tough to put a value on anyone’s life, and it is tough to place all of the responsibility on one source.
The key is in who had what information.
Certainly, in the course of participation in the contest, Jennifer Strange should not have ignored her body’s warnings. That said, contests like this are all about ignoring your body’s needs, toughing it out in order to persevere and outlast the other competitors. Since most people don’t know that you can overdose on water, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that a contestant might not know he or she was in danger of serious effects from over-consumption of it.
There was discussion about a similar death during the promotion of the contest.
Since the possibility of overdose was information the station did have (as demonstrated by on-air discussion prior to the event), it was the responsibility of those running the competition to make sure contestants were also aware of that danger, and to monitor them for symptoms such as the ones Jennifer Strange began to mention as the contest wound down. Those symptoms should have triggered a response in the contest moderator(s). Instead, the contest was continued until somebody won, and then another symptom occurred. At that point employees involved with the contest should have made sure the contestants received medical attention instead of sending them home.
In failing to share the information they had about the dangers of the particular activity involved in the contest, and in failing to monitor contestants for signs of water poisoning, the station failed to live up to its responsibility to those participating in a station-sponsored event.
This is why I am against the idea of award limits, but for the idea of genuine reform in the area of lawsuits. The multitude of stupid suits out there causes legitimate suits to be taken less seriously and threatens the ability of the individual to obtain justice as the backlash against them encompasses all suits, rather than just the bad ones. In cases like this, families should be able to win huge settlements, not just because the life lost is so valuable to them, but because of the punitive in punitive damages, and the deterrent nature of profit loss.