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North Dakota Wrongful Death Act: ND Supreme Court’s New Ruling

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.

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