Zander, et al. v. MorsetteAnnotate this Case
Jordan Morsette appealed an amended judgment ordering him to pay $242 million in compensatory damages and $885 million in punitive damages to Plaintiffs Shayna Monson; Lee Zander, individually and on behalf of Taylor Goven, deceased; and Jason Renschler, individually and on behalf of Abby Renschler, deceased. In June 2015, while driving on the wrong side of the Bismarck Expressway, Morsette’s vehicle collided head on with Monson’s vehicle. Monson suffered serious bodily injuries, and Goven and Renschler died at the crash scene. Morsette’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.295 percent at the time of the collision. The Plaintiffs sued Morsette for negligence, seeking damages for their injuries. Morsette answered and admitted liability for the accident. The Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint to add a punitive damages claim, alleging Morsette’s conduct was oppressive and malicious. The district court granted the Plaintiffs’ motion, finding they “met the threshold of malice necessary to amend the complaint to request punitive damages.” Morsette argued the district court erred in admitting evidence of his intoxication, erred in its instructions to the jury, and erred by granting the Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint to add a punitive damages claim. Morsette also argued the jury’s verdict was excessive. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the amended judgment, finding the district court erred by admitting irrelevant evidence, failing to properly instruct the jury, and in concluding there was sufficient evidence to support a punitive damages claim. The matter was remanded for a new trial.