According to police, a day that began with wedding vows in 2014 ended with a violent brawl at a country club, which had wedding guests shouting at one another and required seven police agencies to break it up.
But a lawsuit over the fracas at the Orchard Park Country Club has ended quietly, with a confidential settlement for an undisclosed amount.
Attorneys for the country club and an Elma man who alleged that he was beaten by the groom's brother and another relative confirmed Monday afternoon that the settlement was reached after several days of testimony before State Supreme Court Judge Paul B. Wojtaszek.
“Our client still faces some challenges in his life, but he has wonderful family support, and that should help him,” said John P. Ford, an Amherst attorney who represented Gary Kifner, 44, who allegedly suffered a brain injury when attacked by Darryl K. Ellis and Charles J. Ellis, the brother of the groom.
The confidential settlement was also confirmed by James J. Navagh, an attorney for the country club. The two attorneys said they could not discuss details of the settlement, the brawl or the testimony that was heard by jurors after the trial began on Feb. 6.
The wedding reception for Alex C. Ellis and Stephanie M. Lancon began peacefully on the evening of Sept. 13, 2014, and erupted into a brawl late that night, according to Kifner's lawsuit.
Lowlights of the reception included the bride being slapped by a female in the groom's family, the groom being slugged when he tried to break up a fight between his brother and Kifner, the groom's father being put in a headlock and wrestling on the floor with a guest, and Kifner, whose wife was a bridesmaid, being wheeled out on a stretcher, according to depositions of witnesses taken as part of the case.
"I tried to pull Gary (Kifner) and Chuck (Ellis) apart to stop them when I got hit in the face by Chuck," the groom testified in a deposition.
Charles Ellis, the groom's brother, described the scene in a pretrial deposition. He testified that he waded into the middle of a fight involving eight to 10 people and got hit from three different directions.
“I was still in the middle – basically in the middle of the group and I got hit a couple of more times. I'm not sure how many and I'm not sure from who … I was getting hit from three different angles pretty much. I then backed out of it … I grabbed a large gentleman by the waist and tried to pull him off,” Charles Ellis testified in the deposition.
According to court papers filed by Kifner’s attorneys in 2015, the country club and its employees “continued to serve” alcohol to Charles Ellis and Darryl Ellis “even after they knew or should have known from their appearance and their behavior that Defendants … were intoxicated.”
The lawsuit accused Charles and Darryl Ellis of attacking Kifner around 11 p.m., and the lawsuit accused the country club of negligently failing to control the situation. It alleged that the two Ellises had become “intoxicated … boisterous, aggressive, and a nuisance to the other guests.”
In court papers, Charles Ellis, Darryl Ellis and the country club all denied wrongdoing, through their attorneys.
A witness told The Buffalo News in 2014 that a series of fights broke out at the end of an otherwise beautiful wedding and reception for a couple who live in Orchard Park. A witness who worked at the event but asked not to be identified said roughly 200 guests attended, and the fracas unfolded after the official reception ended at 11 p.m.
“I’m telling you, there was blood everywhere,” he said. “There was holes punched in the walls. Words couldn’t describe it. Just when you thought it was over, another fight started.”
Orchard Park Police Lt. Patrick Fitzgerald, who was shift commander that night, confirmed the witness’ statements and said that the later brawl followed a more minor incident earlier in the evening.
Officers encountered “a large crowd inside and outside of the venue where the fighting was still ongoing,” according to police.
Fitzgerald said damage to the room where the brawl occurred included holes in walls, blood, broken crystal bowls and glasses.
Because the brawl was so large, Orchard Park Police requested assistance, and officers from the towns of Hamburg, West Seneca and Cheektowaga, Village of East Aurora, Erie County Sheriff’s Office and State Police helped them break up the fights, treat the injured and remove people from the club.
Kara Addelman and Jesse Baldwin were Ford’s co-counsels in the case. James Cosgriff represented Charles Ellis and Lisa Diaz-Ordaz represented Darryl Ellis.