Darien actor files civil suit against alleged bar attacker, establishment

A man injured in a bar fight in mid-December at Chez Ernie’s at Tokeneke Road has filed a civil suit against the alleged assailant, Christopher Ailker, and named Chez Ernie’s and proprietor Steven Palmer as secondary defendants.

Porretta, a Darien resident, is an actor in both movies and television. His most recent movie credit is Wolves, as per the Internet Movie Database. He has made guest appearances on The Good Wife, CSI:NY, Deadbeat, and Wings. He had longer-term running roles on television on The New Adventures of Robin Hood and Beverly Hills 90210.

The suit is based on several counts against Aikler, including assault, battery, negligence and common law recklessness.

It seeks monetary damages in excess of $15,000, as well as any costs the court deems proper, and punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Darien police arrested Aikler nearly a month after they responded to a report of a fight at Chez Ernie’s Cafe around 1 a.m. Dec. 18. Officers found Porretta, who remained unnamed at the time, suffering severe facial injuries, and a second victim, a 51-year-old Southbury man, with a minor injury.

Witnesses reported that the suspect had struck Porretta with a glass, then in an ensuing skirmish, struck the second victim with his fist. The suspect had been escorted from the establishment by employees and had left the scene prior to the arrival of police.

Both victims were taken to Stamford Hospital for treatment of their injuries. Due to the extent of Porretta’s injuries, Darien Police detectives responded to process the scene and interview those involved.

On Dec. 19, 2016, the suspect was identified as Aikler, 43, of Norwalk. On Dec. 22, 2016, Aikler met with detectives, offering his full cooperation. On Jan. 11, Aikler turned himself in to detectives after learning there was a warrant for his arrest. Aikler was charged with two counts of assault, second- and third-degree, and breach of peace.

His criminal case is still ongoing, with his next court date being April 17. The system says the court is awaiting his plea.

In his complaint, filed in early March, Porretta asserts that around 12:30 that morning, “unprovoked by Matthew Porretta, and in consequence of his intoxication, Defendant Aikler struck Matthew Porretta in the head and left side of his face with a beer mug.”

Porretta asserts that the force of the hit caused the beer mug to shatter, and caused him to be “propelled backwards into a high top table, striking the back of his head and causing him to fall to the ground.”

Among Porretta’s listed injuries were traumatic injury to his left eye, traumatic fracture of upper-anterior left nasal bone, facial lacerations, including left cheek laceration and jagged left eye laceration, laceration of left frontal scalp, traumatic injury to head, traumatic facial fracture, and traumatic injury to his cervical spine.

Porretta asserts as a result of his injuries, he required emergency eye surgery “to salvage his left eyeball,” and said he not only will require further eye surgery, he has increased risk for losing sight in his left eye.

Court documents also say Porretta has been left with permanent and disfiguring scarring and has experienced mental and emotional injury.

Porretta says the injuries have impaired his future quality of life, and caused him to already incur and will continue to incur medical expenses. At the same time, Porretta says he has incurred lost wages and “his ability to earn future income.”

Porretta’s attorney, Michael Burrell, said his client has already gone through three eye surgeries and his medical bills have already gone over $100,000 — which he said is “unlikely to be covered by insurance.”

“It was a pretty vicious assault — we are waiting to see what the outcome on the criminal side will be,” he said.

The claim against Chez Ernies and Steven Palmer is under the “Dram Shop Act.” The act can hold the seller of alcohol to an intoxicated individual responsible for injuries committed by that person to another person or property.

Burrell said the “Dram Shop” act suit has to be filed within a certain amount of time or they would be unable to do so.

“It was both the time sensitivity and the nature of Mr. Porretta’s injuries,” he said.

“He’s an actor and has a scar on his face. Aside from physical injuries, he has extensive injuries on the inner working of his eye. It is unclear if he will have visual impairment — he is at risk for long-term problems,” Burrell said.

There is a video of the assault from Chez Ernie’s internal camera. The Darien Times has requested the video via the Freedom of Information Act but Darien Police said the video is still part of an ongoing investigation.

Calls to Aikler’s attorney were not returned. Steven Palmer deferred to his attorneys.

“It is sad and disturbing, and there continues to be no explanation” for the attack, Burrell said.

The next court date on the civil case is April 10.