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ND Supreme Court orders new trial in Fargo doctor’s defamation case

Dr. Jon Norberg talks to the press in November 2012. Forum file photo.1 / 2
Dr. Alonna Norberg gives testimony during a trial in November 2012. Forum file photo.2 / 2

BISMARCK – Jon Norberg, a Fargo doctor acquitted in 2012 of drugging and raping his ex-wife, will get a new trial for his claims that she had abused the legal process, defamed him and maliciously sought to have him prosecuted, the North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled.

The high court ruled that a Cass County District Court in a July 2015 jury trial misapplied the doctrine of collateral estoppel, which prevents a person from relitigating facts or issues of law in a case.

In its conclusions in the appeal of the Norberg v. Norberg case, the state Supreme Court ruled that the district court must instruct the jury to accept as facts that:

  • Alonna Knorr Norberg (the court refers to her as Alonna Knorr) lied when she reported that she was administered the powerful anesthetic Propofol without her knowledge and falsely alleged that Jon Norberg sexually abused her.
  • She knew the allegations were false when she made them to law enforcement and throughout the prosecution of her husband.
  • She was responsible for Norberg’s indictment and the subsequent criminal trial relating to those falls allegations of sexual abuse.
  • Norberg suffered financial harm as a result of Alonna Knorr’s false allegations.

In addition, the district court is being instructed to prohibit Knorr from “introducing or eliciting contrary testimony or other contrary evidence.”

In November 2012, a jury found Norberg not guilty after a trial in which his ex-wife alleged he had drugged her with Propofol before sexually assaulting her. Norberg accused her of lying in the criminal case because he was divorcing her and she wanted custody of their three children.

The North Dakota Board of Medicine suspended Norberg's license in January 2012 after its own investigation found he engaged in unprofessional conduct, committed gross negligence and administered a dangerous drug illegally. Norberg regained his license in March 2015 after satisfying the board’s requirements for reinstatement. Jurors who acquitted him in the criminal trial wrote to state medical board on his behalf.

A jury awarded him custody of the couple’s three children in a subsequent divorce trial.

A later medical malpractice case filed by Alonna Knorr against Norberg was dismissed in May 2015. As part of that case, Norberg filed a countersuit that alleged the criminal and divorce cases, which both involved his ex-wife, defamed him. He sought compensation for legal fees and lost wages.

In her response to the defamation suit, Alonna Knorr argued that her allegations against her ex-husband were true, regardless of the outcomes of the criminal and divorce cases.

Norberg’s attorney’s had argued that his former wife was trying to relitigate the facts that had been decided in the earlier criminal and divorce cases. But the Cass County District Court denied Norberg’s motion and the case went to trial, where the jury found Knorr not liable on all of the claims.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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