FARGO — Jury selection began Tuesday, Aug. 3, in a civil trial that seeks economic and noneconomic damages in a case involving the death of one man and injury to another following a violent altercation outside the Hotel Donaldson in May 2017.

The hotel is a defendant in the case, along with Darren Patterson, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to negligent homicide for throwing a punch that led to the death of Jamie Grant.

Patterson settled his case out of court and terms of the settlements were not disclosed.

The punch that led to Grant's death occurred during a confrontation outside the HoDo following an argument inside the business between Patterson and a small group of men, including Grant and Christopher Sang.

Sang, who like Grant was knocked out by Patterson outside of the hotel, is a plaintiff in the case, as is Grant's widow, Jenny Grant.

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During the early part of jury selection Tuesday, Robert Hoy, an attorney representing Sang, asked prospective jurors whether they would give consideration to the assertion that Patterson would not have had the opportunity to punch Sang if the hotel had handled things differently the night of May 27, 2017, when the violence occurred outside the hotel, bar and restaurant at 101 Broadway N.

Two prospective jurors indicated they might have a problem with that, with one man telling Hoy, "I'll listen, but I admit it seems like a hurdle."

Another told Hoy that he, too, thought blaming the hotel might be a reach for him.

Patterson, who is listed as a witness in the trial, was not present in the courtroom when proceedings began Tuesday morning.

Sang and Jenny Grant joined separate lawsuits against the HoDo, claiming its employees were negligent in preventing Sang’s injuries and Jamie Grant’s death.

James "Jamie" Grant died June 5, 2017, nine days after being punched in the head outside the HoDo Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Fargo. Special to The Forum
James "Jamie" Grant died June 5, 2017, nine days after being punched in the head outside the HoDo Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Fargo. Special to The Forum

The plaintiffs have stated in court documents that HoDo staff failed to use reasonable care to protect patrons and that the bar did not adopt policies regarding altercations and failed to properly train employees to handle fights.

The HoDo has said in court filings it did not have a duty to protect Sang or Jamie Grant on public sidewalks outside the restaurant, and that Patterson and the Grants are to blame for the incident. The business has denied any wrongdoing and negligence in the case.

A nine-person jury will decide if the restaurant is financially responsible for Jamie Grant's death and injuries suffered by Sang.

Nine days have been set aside for the trial.

A hearing in the Hotel Donaldson punch lawsuit was held in Cass County Court on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. 
David Samson / The Forum
A hearing in the Hotel Donaldson punch lawsuit was held in Cass County Court on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

According to court filings:

Patterson, the Grants, Sang and others were in the HoDo when a verbal altercation broke out between them. One worker said it was unclear who instigated the fight, though the Grant group appeared to be antagonizing Patterson.

Video evidence indicates Patterson approached the Grant group before the altercation began inside the restaurant, according to court filings, which indicate the argument turned physical before staff separated the individuals involved.

Employees escorted the Grant group out the south door, while Patterson was taken out the west exit.

Patterson walked around the restaurant building toward the Grant group and punched Jamie Grant and Sang, court documents said.

Jamie Grant hit the pavement and never regained consciousness. He died nine days later.

Sang also lost consciousness but eventually woke up. He suffered a brain injury, court documents said.

In 2018, Patterson was sentenced to 18 months in prison on felony charges of aggravated assault and negligent homicide. Though he pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, he entered an Alford plea to aggravated assault, meaning he didn't admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict him on that charge.

He served 15 months of that sentence.

Jury selection was expected to be completed Tuesday, with opening arguments beginning Wednesday morning.