Insurance Law

Radio station not liable for worker's $807K legal bill in water-drinking contest death case


A man who was sued by the survivors of a woman who died of water intoxication after participating in a California radio station’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest was eventually dismissed from the case against his employer.

But not before he racked up a $807,421 legal bill, which a California appeals court now says the insurer for KDND-FM isn’t responsible to cover, Courthouse News reports.

Matthew Carter, a part-time assistant who handed bottles of water to contestants, didn’t like the lawyer the insurer provided for him and retained his own defense counsel. However, Vigilant Insurance Co., the carrier for Entercom, which owns the radio station, doesn’t have to pick up the tab, a Third Appellate District panel held Tuesday.

Carter did not have the right to select his own counsel under state labor and employment law, and there was no showing that the attorney provided by the insurer was inadequate, the court found.

“Carter points to no reason why it would have been in Vigilant’s interest to pursue a theory that would have subjected Carter to an award of punitive damages, and because Vigilant was liable for any compensatory damages award against Carter it was in Vigilant’s interest just as much (if not more than) it was in Carter’s interest to vigorously defend against the Strange action,” explained the panel’s written opinion. “Under these circumstances, Carter has failed to show that the mere prospect of punitive damages prevented the attorney retained by Vigilant from providing Carter with a complete defense or created a conflict of interest that made it necessary for him to retain independent counsel.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Jury Says Radio Station Must Pay $16.6M in Woman’s Water Intoxication Death”

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