The North Dakota Supreme Court last week ruled that there can be a wrongful death claim seeking non-economic damages for adult children of the decedent in a medical malpractice against a doctor and hospitals in Crosby and Minot.
In Weigel v. Lee is a procedurally bizarre case where the trial judge let the case go to a jury, dismissed the claim on grounds that could have been ruled upon at the outset of the case, and then declared a mistrial because he decided he made the wrong decision. But in “correcting” his ruling, the judge still did not allow non-economic damages – the pain and suffering of losing a parent – to be a compensable element of their medical malpractice case under the North Dakota Wrongful Death Act.
The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the finding that adult children are entitled to recover damages and wrongful death cases.
This is not a good feeling regarding the interpretation of North Dakota wrongful death law but also as a matter of justice. The notion that there can be no recovery and wrongful death because the children of the decedent are adults is just plain Draconian. Imagine that a doctor says, “Yes, assume I killed your mother. There is no real value to your loss therefore I should not be held responsible even if it was my medical malpractice that killed her.” Insane, right? Thankfully, the North Dakota Supreme Court agreed that the North Dakota legislature intended something very different when it drafted the wrongful death act.
North Dakota Wrongful Death Verdicts and Settlements
YEAR / STATE
CASE / INJURY SUMMARY
2019 – North Dakota
Three 20-something women were struck head-on. Two of the women died. The sole survivor sustained a traumatic brain injury. The two decedents’ families and the surviving woman alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused the fatal collision. They claimed he failed to stay in his travel lane and negligently drove while intoxicated. The defense admitted liability. A Burleigh County jury awarded a $1.127 billion verdict. The two decedents’ families each received over $333 million, while the surviving woman received over $470 million.
$1,127,000,000 – Verdict
2014 – North Dakota
A woman presented to the hospital with left flank pain. Her medical history comprised Stage III chronic kidney disease and right kidney agenesis. She was admitted with chronic kidney disease and acute cystitis. The hospital staff administered Dilaudid. They administered a dose while she was asleep. The woman became unresponsive. The hospital staff attempted to resuscitate her. They were unsuccessful. The woman died from Dilaudid toxicity. Her surviving spouse alleged that the hospital staff’s negligence caused her death. They claimed they negligently administered Dilaudid and inadequately monitored her. This case settled for $850,000.
$850,000 – Settlement
2004 – North Dakota
$1,500,000 – Verdict
2004 – North Dakota
A 49-year-old man underwent an aortic valve replacement. Following the procedure, he suffered a fatal heart attack. The man’s family alleged that the physician’s negligence caused his death. They claimed he negligently performed the surgery, incorrectly placed the aortic valve, and used a small aortic valve. The defense denied negligence. Following mediation, the man’s family received $1,300,000.
$1,300,000 – Verdict
2003 – North Dakota
A pedestrian was struck by a truck on a highway’s shoulder lane. He died from his injuries. The man’s family alleged that the truck driver’s negligence caused his death. They claimed he negligently operated his vehicle in icy conditions, excessively sped, and failed to maintain a proper lookout. The defense denied liability. This case settled for $925,000.
$925,000 – Verdict
2002 – North Dakota
A man died after undergoing surgery. His family alleged that the physician’s negligence caused his death. They claimed he failed to timely diagnose his condition, order diagnostic tests, administer appropriate medications, and provide an appropriate standard of care. The defense denied negligence. They argued that the man’s death was unrelated to their care. This case settled for $850,000.
$850,000 – Settlement
1999 – North Dakota
$985,458 – Verdict
$175,000 – Settlement
$100,000 – Settlement