The family of the man fatally stabbed in a fight at the Elks Lodge in Princeton received a historic verdict, with a jury awarding $19.35 million in a judgment against the lodge.

In granting what the plaintiff’s attorney believes to be the largest civil judgement in Caldwell County history, the jury ruled on Sept. 28 that the lodge should have created an environment that protected Grant Beckner, who was stabbed in an altercation with former Princeton water supervisor Joseph Anderson in May of 2017.

Beckner’s daughter and estate administrator, Lanie Beckner, sued Princeton Elks Lodge #1115 for failing to exercise ordinary care for the safety of its customers.

Louisville attorney David Barber, who represented the plaintiff, said Monday that the lodge should have known, based on Anderson’s conduct the night of the fight — which included belligerent and obscene language, as well as apparent drunkenness — and based on his previous behavior, which included physically assaulting others at the club, that Anderson’s presence was a danger to Beckner and others.

Barber’s trial brief claims Anderson said he was a “servant of the devil” and that he would send someone “to hell” the night of the stabbing.

Barber said bartenders and employees knew of Anderson’s history and expressed concern about it, but were not properly trained and feared for their safety if they confronted him. He said a club officer employees brought their concerns to didn’t “want to be bothered with it.”

Jurors were instructed to determine if the Elks Lodge had exercised ordinary care for the safety of its customers. This included not permitting anyone on the premises to create a risk to its customers (through threats and fighting, noise or hazardous or offensive conditions), not serving alcohol to intoxicated persons and having a responsibility to prevent the assault if it was aware of or could have been reasonably aware of Anderson’s intentions against Beckner.

The jury also had to determine if it was Beckner’s duty to exercise care for his own safety, and if he did not comply with this duty. The jury decided that both the lodge and Beckner were responsible for his care. It officially attributed 30% of the fault to Beckner and 70% of the fault to the lodge.

The jury awarded $850,000 for conscious physical pain and suffering, $500,000 for destruction of ability to labor and earn money and $18 million in punitive damages. Not all the decisions were unanimous, but civil cases don’t require every juror to agree.

Barber said he hopes the judgment can bring about systemic change in similar establishments that may turn a blind eye to dangerous individuals or provide insufficient training to staff.

“My hope is that other places that are selling alcohol just pay attention to it ... it’s very simple to train people,” Barber said.

A jury found Anderson guilty of first-degree manslaughter at his criminal trial, and sentenced him to 15 years without the possibility of probation. He is currently serving time at Northpoint Training Center in Boyle County.