A former Minnesota State University, Mankato football player is suing the two men who attacked and gravely injured him in a street brawl in 2014, as well as two Mankato bars that served his assailants.
Isaac Kolstad was punched to the ground and kicked in the head in an attack that left him with a fractured skull and brain injuries that continue to affect his ability to speak and move. His assailants, Trevor Shelley and former Gophers starting quarterback Philip Nelson, both pleaded guilty to assault.
The civil suit, filed in Blue Earth County last week on behalf of Kolstad and his family, seeks damages from Shelley and Nelson, as well as from the South Street Saloon and the Blue Bricks Bar in downtown Mankato for serving Nelson, who was 20 years old — too young to legally drink alcohol — at the time of the assault.
The lawsuit argues that liquor fueled the fight that changed Kolstad’s life on the night of May 11, 2014.
When Kolstad, now 26, went out that night, he was a young man with a career, a young daughter and a wife who was pregnant with their second child. Kolstad, Nelson and Shelley were standing outside a bar when the trouble started.
An intoxicated Nelson, the lawsuit argues, mistook Kolstad for a Blue Bricks bouncer who had kissed Nelson’s girlfriend earlier that evening. Nelson shoved Kolstad and Kolstad knocked Nelson to the ground.
Then Shelley — a high school classmate of Nelson’s — ran up and punched Kolstad in the head. Video surveillance cameras on the street captured the moment that Kolstad crumpled to the ground and hit his skull on the pavement. Nelson then kicked a motionless Kolstad in the head.
Kolstad was comatose and on life support for weeks and underwent months of grueling physical and occupational therapy, relearning how to walk and talk.
“He has improved from where he was” two years ago, said attorney Kenneth White, who is representing the Kolstad family. But he continues to struggle to regain what he lost to his injuries.
Kolstad’s youngest daughter was born while her father was still in a coma.
The suit asks for damages in excess of $50,000 each for Kolstad, his wife Molly and their two children, as well as his parents and siblings.
In addition to seeking damages from the bars for serving Nelson, the lawsuit says Blue Bricks was liable as well for the behavior of the bouncer who allegedly kissed Nelson’s girlfriend.
Attorneys for the South Street Saloon, the first to file a response to the suit on behalf of the defendants, issued a categorical denial on Tuesday. It said the bar had not been negligent and its owners were not responsible for what happened to Kolstad.