FARGO — The wife of a man who was fatally punched outside the Hotel Donaldson as well as former employees took the stand in a civil trial against the bar and restaurant, which is fighting claims that it failed to prevent the man's death and injuries to his friend.
Jennifer Grant was the first to testify in the nine-day trial against the establishment, also known as the HoDo, in connection to the May 27, 2017, altercation that led to Jamie Grant’s death.
Jamie Grant died June 5, 2017, nine days after Darren Patterson punched him outside the bar and restaurant.
Jennifer Grant was not with her husband during the attack, but she described the aftermath. She found out about the assault early next morning from Jamie's brother, Jeff Grant, she testified in court.
She said she had hoped her husband would recover in the first days of him being in a hospital, but that hope slipped as her husband’s condition deteriorated. He eventually was declared brain dead, and Jennifer Grant made the decision to take him off life support.
Grant said life has been hard without her husband. She quit her job as an interior designer for Icon Architectural Group in Grand Forks to take care of her son.
“My job right now is to be James’ mother,” she said.
She recalled telling her son, James, that his father may not make it, and what the then-8-year-old’s response was.
“He said, ‘Mom, if dad shall die, then we shall die. If dad shall survive, then we shall survive,’” Jennifer Grant said. “I couldn’t believe that that came out of this little boy’s mouth.”
Jennifer Grant and Christopher Sang, who suffered a brain injury after being punched by Patterson, are suing the HoDo. The two claim HoDo staff could have reasonably foreseen Patterson was going to go after the Grant group after being kicked out of the bar and restaurant.
Moments before Patterson’s attack outside, he approached Jamie Grant, his brother, Jeff, and friend Sang inside the bar. Video showed Patterson twisting Jamie Grant's arm behind his back.
Sara Tjosaas, a customer who witnessed the confrontation, said she saw Patterson throw a punch and someone fall to the ground — that person was later identified as Jamie Grant.
HoDo staff worked to separate the parties at about the same time. Employees also called the police.
Patterson was sent out the Broadway door to the west.
The Grant group asked why they were being kicked out of the bar and said they didn’t want to leave because they feared being attacked by Patterson, Jennifer Grant’s attorney Daniel Dunn said. They left at the staff's urging through the First Avenue North door to the south.
"They broke the old rule that it is better to be safe than sorry and cost Jamie Grant his life," Dunn said of HoDo staff.
Former bar manager Jordan Anderson testified she doesn't remember the Grant group saying anything about feeling threatened. She acknowledged the bar has no policy on handling altercations, nor does it provide training.
The HoDo did not hire security and relied on staff to break up fights, Anderson said.
The goal at the time was to get the two parties out of the bar in order to protect other customers and her staff, Anderson testified. She testified getting the parties out separate doors seemed like a good idea.
"I thought we handled it the best we could," she said.
After leaving the bar, Patterson crossed Broadway toward Halberstadt's but then came back toward the Grant group and punched Jamie Grant and Sang.
Tjosaas testified that she saw Patterson crossing the street "basically with a purpose" and said in the bar, "He's coming back here."
Anderson said she heard that remark and saw Patterson coming across the street. She previously told police he looked like he was "on a mission" to finish what was started in the bar and fight the Grant group.
Anderson acknowledged in court that Patterson looked like a threat to the Grant group. Anderson testified that she went toward the south door out of concern of something bad happening.
HoDo attorney Elizabeth Kriz said staff had to make decisions very quickly, adding the bar and restaurant is not responsible for Patterson’s actions.
“The actions of the HoDo employees must be judged on what they saw at the time,” Kriz said.
The HoDo has argued in court documents that they don't have a responsibility to protect patrons on the public sidewalk.
"They ignore the fact that they (the Grant group and Patterson) are on the sidewalk because they (the HoDo staff) threw them out there," Sang's attorney Robert Hoy said.
What staff shouldn’t have done was force the Grant group and Patterson out of the bar at the same time, Hoy said. A hospitality expert and former police officer who responded to numerous bar altercations in Chicago are expected to testify that the HoDo should have waited for police to arrive or should have evicted the parties at separate times, Jennifer Grant’s and Sang’s attorneys said.
Sang was hit so hard that he was knocked out of his sandals, Hoy said, which is also illustrated in pictures. Sang can't remember much of what happened during the altercation, nor can he smell or taste things, Hoy added.
"In many ways, Chris is the lucky one," Hoy said.
It’s unclear how much Sang and Jennifer Grant will ask for in damages. Jamie Grant lost more than $2.6 million in income since his death and in future income, Dunn said, though Jennifer Grant is asking for lost income, medical and funeral expenses, and damages related to distress, mental anguish and loss of companionship.
Responsible bars should have plans for dealing with altercations, as alcohol can lead to aggressive and violent behavior, Hoy said.
"The reason is, the HoDo is not that kind of bar," Dunn said of the bar having no formal policy on preventing altercations.