FARGO — A jury trial is underway in a defamation lawsuit brought by a West Fargo man against the Oxbow Golf Club, alleging the country club and others damaged his reputation by spreading false rumors that he engaged in “rampant cocaine use” at the club.
Aaron Greterman, a real estate agent, filed the suit in January 2018 against the club and its board members Bill Short, of Fargo, Britton Mattson and David Campbell, both of Horace, N.D., and Scott Differding and Roger Campbell, both of Oxbow, N.D.
Greterman is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, alleging the defendants slandered his name by claiming he used cocaine and, by defaming him, hurt him economically, court papers show.
Greterman, the defendants and their respective attorneys appeared Tuesday, July 16, in Cass County District Court, where a jury trial began in the case.
According to court documents and opening statements:
David Campbell invited Greterman to participate in the Oxbow Golf Club’s annual Battle of the Bow golf tournament in June 2017.
At some point during the tournament, Greterman pulled out a bottle of a retail product called “doTERRA Lime,” described as an essential oil that can be taken as drops under the tongue or mixed into a drink. Greterman mixed the essential oil into an alcoholic drink he ordered.
Greterman and the defense’s positions differ slightly here as to what Greterman said when David Campbell asked him what he was mixing into his drink.
Greterman’s attorney, Andrew Parker, said in his opening statement Greterman described the oil as “the best energy shot you’ve ever had, it’s like liquid cocaine.”
David Campbell recalls Greterman saying the oil is “like cocaine, like liquid cocaine ... You can snort it, you can sniff it, you can put it in your drink” and that “it will give you the best rush,” according to the opening statement from David Campbell’s lawyer, Benjamin Hasbrouck.
Parker claimed that David Campbell and the other defendants took Greterman’s remarks and spread them without any basis of fact that Greterman was in fact using cocaine.
Michael Morley, the attorney for the other defendants, said David Campbell repeated only what Greterman said and that the first reference to cocaine during the incident was uttered by Greterman.
The country club board members met later that month, and they decided to ban Greterman from the club because of his “conduct of a severe nature” at the tournament without any mention of his cocaine use.
Greterman learned sometime during July from a friend that he was banned from the club because of his cocaine use, Parker said. Greterman said a meeting with Short and Differding to discuss the situation ended when he was told that he was banned for doing cocaine.
After the meeting, Greterman remembered he used the essential oil during the tournament and told the defendants about it, Parker said.
Morley said Differding and Short did not bring up anything about cocaine during that meeting. Hasbrouck and Morley said Greterman was banned due to his “improper conduct and unacceptable behavior” during the tournament.
In their opening statements, both defense attorneys claimed that Greterman was drunk from the start of the tournament. At 9 a.m., Greterman allegedly ordered four double shots of tequila for himself, David Campbell and their two opponents, and drank them when they all declined.
Both Morley and Hasbrouck said in their opening statements that Greterman continued to get aggressive and that after taking the essential oil, there was a noticeable change in his behavior, described by Hasbrouck as “ballistic.”
Parker conveyed to the jury that Greterman was drinking the day of the tournament, but warned that the defense will be embellishing his actions. “The evidence, when you see it, when you hear it ... it does not add up with the story they are trying to tell you,” Parker said.
Due to the Oxbow incident and the ensuing rumors, Greterman's commission earnings as a real estate agent dropped dramatically, Parker said. Greterman moved to Nashville, Tenn., to start his real estate work anew because of the damage his reputation suffered in the Fargo-Moorhead area, his attorney said.
“This case is perhaps about our singularly most important possession, our name,” Parker said.