FARGO — A man who landed a fatal punch during a fight outside a downtown hotel bar here in 2017 has been freed from custody, but his legal troubles are not over.
Darren Patterson, now 45, of Las Vegas, earlier pleaded guilty in the death of James “Jamie” Grant, 45, of Fargo, who died nine days after he was struck in the head by Patterson and fell backward to the pavement outside the Hotel Donaldson.
Patterson was first incarcerated at the Missouri River Correctional Center in Bismarck, then moved to the Bismarck Transition Center. He was released from that facility on Thursday, Nov. 14, after serving 15 months of an 18-month sentence.
However, he now faces a wrongful death lawsuit from Grant’s widow, Jenny Grant. The civil suit, filed in late April, also names the Hotel Donaldson as a defendant.
Patterson in return has filed a cross claim against the hotel, claiming it breached its duties in the matter and “utterly failed to keep order in its facility,” according to court records.
While Patterson’s home is in Nevada, he previously lived in Fargo and has business ties here.
The incident happened outside the HoDo Restaurant and Lounge, 101 Broadway N., on May 27, 2017.
Under the civil suit, attorneys for Jenny Grant claim Jamie Grant died as “a direct result of the combined fault” of the Hotel Donaldson and Patterson.
The complaint states after “loud and hostile verbal exchanges” between the patrons, HoDo bar employees forced Patterson, Jamie Grant, his brother Jeff Grant and friend Christopher Sang out separate doors of the facility, and “failed to exercise reasonable care to mitigate the escalating altercation.”
The suit seeks payment for medical, funeral and burial expenses, loss of income, mental anguish, emotional distress, grief and other damages. Compensatory damages are sought in a reasonable amount in excess of $50,000, a standard request under North Dakota law.
Jenny Grant's attorney, Mike Williams, told The Forum he wasn’t able to comment on the suit — only that the complaint “speaks for itself.” Efforts to reach Jenny Grant, Patterson, his attorney and the Hotel Donaldson’s attorney were not successful.
Patterson, hotel respond
In its legal response, the Hotel Donaldson denied allegations in the complaint, including claims that its employees acted improperly. It said any injuries, death and damages were caused by the “contributory negligence or fault … of decedent James Grant.”
Darren Patterson also denied the allegations against him in court documents, including the claim that he pursued the men after the parties were removed from the bar.
In his cross claim against the Hotel Donaldson, Patterson maintains it was Grant and his companions who started the altercation.
In fact, in an interview with the North Dakota Parole Board on June 5, after which parole was denied, Patterson described what he believed was a factor in the fight.
In the recording of the interview obtained by The Forum, Patterson said that as he walked to the bar restroom that night, someone in the group grabbed him in the crotch area.
“So I instinctively grabbed his hand and twisted it like this,” Patterson said, but added that he didn’t get a good look at the man's face.
In court documents, Patterson said Grant was clearly intoxicated, and bar employees continued to serve him.
The cross claim states the bar owes Patterson defense and indemnity, because its fault “was primary to any fault of Patterson.”
In the Hotel Donaldson’s answer to Patterson’s cross claim, it denies all allegations. And it denies any duty to either man after they left the bar, and said Grant’s death “was caused solely by the negligence of James Grant and/or Darren Patterson.”
Before Patterson was sentenced in August 2018, Jenny Grant pleaded for the maximum punishment of five years behind bars. "I just lost my soulmate of 22 years," she said at the time.
She also said she struggled to help their son, James Grant, who is now 11 years old, cope with the death of his father.
Jamie Grant wasn’t the only person struck by Patterson that fateful night.
Patterson was also accused of hitting Jeff Grant and Christopher Sang. Sang suffered a brain injury and was continuing to recover.
Cass County District Judge Wade Webb is assigned to hear the wrongful death suit. A scheduling conference for the parties involved is set for Monday, Dec. 16.