HoDo to call one witness to defend against claims it failed to prevent fatal attack

Plaintiffs rest cases Monday morning after four days of calling witnesses during the civil trial. One of the final witnesses included Philadelphia security consultant Russell Kolins, who said the HoDo failed to have a plan in place to handle bar altercations.

Darren Patterson served 15 months in prison for fatally punching a man outside the Hotel Donaldson in 2017. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — The Hotel Donaldson will get its chance to argue why it is not financially responsible for a fatal attack that unfolded on a public sidewalk after staff kicked out several men for fighting inside the bar.

Plaintiffs who have brought a lawsuit against the HoDo in Cass County District Court rested their cases Monday morning, Aug. 9, after four days of calling witnesses during the civil trial. One of the final witnesses included Philadelphia security consultant Russell Kolins, who said the HoDo failed to have a plan in place to handle bar altercations.

Had the bar had policy and trained staff, it would not be sitting in a courtroom four years after Jamie Grant died, the bar altercations expert said. On May 27, 2017, Grant and his friend, Christopher Sang , were punched by Darren Patterson outside the HoDo moments after being ejected from the bar with Grant’s brother, Jeff, for getting into an altercation with Patterson.

Sang and Jamie Grant’s wife, Jennifer, are suing the HoDo, claiming staff were not properly trained to handle an altercation and failed to prevent Grant’s death and injuries to Sang.


Russel Kolins, a security consultant from Philadelphia, testifies Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, during a civil trial against the Hotel Donaldson in district court, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The HoDo has maintained that staff had to make decisions quickly but acted appropriately in separating the Grant group and Patterson. Staff then asked Patterson to leave, which he did so in a cooperative manner out the west exit before crossing Broadway, one former employee said.

That same employee testified she saw Patterson walking away from the bar out of sight, HoDo attorney John Hughes said in his arguments to dismiss the lawsuit. He said the attack happened on a public sidewalk, and the HoDo did not have a duty to protect the Grant group from Patterson.

“I would submit, your honor, that what the Hotel Donaldson did was reasonable,” Hughes said.

Hughes also said staff had a duty to protect coworkers and other patrons. He asked witnesses what would happen if they misidentified the aggressor.

Cass County Judge John Irby denied that motion and said there is enough evidence for a jury to decide whether the HoDo should have done more to prevent the assault outside.

Sang, Jamie Grant and Jeff Grant were drinking in the HoDo when, according to several witnesses, Patterson came over to the Grant group and twisted Jamie Grant’s arm behind his back.

Patterson claimed he was attacked in the bar, but staff identified him as the “aggressor.”


Staff acted appropriately in separating Patterson from the Grant group and forcing the aggressor out, but they should have let the Grant group stay inside in an area away from other customers, such as the south entrance, while either watching for Patterson to leave the sight of the bar or until police arrived to take over, Kolins said.

“The other party should have never been removed, or put out into what I call the lion's den, outside with Mr. Patterson still in the area and not knowing where he went,” Kolins said.

Staff should have been put on notice when he exhibited fighting behavior, including yelling that he wanted to take the fight outside, Kolins said. The Grant group also told bar staff they didn’t want to leave out of fear of being attacked by Patterson, Jeff Grant said.

Despite that, the Grant group obeyed commands to leave through the south exit about a minute after Patterson left.

One expert suggested Patterson crossed Broadway and waited by Halberstadt’s, where he would have had a view of both HoDo exits. Witnesses testified that they saw Patterson march after the Grant group “with purpose” before punching Sang, who has lost his senses of smell and taste as well as his memories of that night, and Jamie Grant, who died nine days later from the punch.

Patterson claims he went to his car but had to come back to get his keys, and that he had plans to go in the south exit. Hughes tried to argue the Grant group would have been attacked had they been waiting in the south entryway of the HoDo, but Kolins called that a stretch.

The HoDo did not watch for Patterson to disappear, said Kolins, who explained that aggressors in bar conflicts are known to wait for people they confronted inside the establishment to come outside.

“It just can't be any more clear that Mr. Patterson was ready to rumble with a sort of speed,” Kolins said, adding the assault outside was “highly foreseeable and highly preventable.”


Bar standards that are followed across the country dictate owners come up with a policy to handle altercations and train staff, Kolins said. He said waiting for aggressors to disappear from sight before letting the other party outside is a well-known methodology to the industry.

“Without that training and understanding, you don’t know how to actually deal with situations,” he said, adding staff will have to think how to react as chaos happens and people get hurt.

Before Jennifer Grant’s attorney Daniel Dunn closed his case, he called Jamie and Jennifer Grant’s 12-year-old son, James. He talked briefly about activities he did with his father, seeing his dad lying in the hospital bed and hugging him one last time before he died.

James said he told his mom he wished he could build a time machine or invent a potion to save his father.

The defense is expected to call one witness. Elizabeth Dumbaugh, who specializes as a security consultant with a focus on bars, lounges and nightclubs, will take the stand Tuesday.

Patterson served 15 months in prison for the attack. Sang and Jennifer Grant also sued Patterson, but they settled out of court.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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