Mother Of Hannah Barnes Files $25 Million Lawsuit Against Hennens, McDonald Farms, Railroad In Train Deaths

Monday, July 30, 2012

The mother of 19-year-old Hannah Barnes, who died when she and Michael Hennen were run over by a train last Aug. 22,  has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Hennen parents, Hennen's Restaurant, the administrator of his estate, McDonald Farms and Norfolk Southern Railway Company.

M. Lisa Barnes, administratrix of the estate of Hannah Barnes, lodged the 17-page complaint in Circuit Court.

The suit says the Hennens provided alcoholic beverages to Ms. Barnes, though she was not old enough to legally drink.

It says the couple lay down on railroad tracks at McDonald Farm at Sale Creek and fell asleep. It says the train failed to sound a warning or slow down, though the conductor saw "a person" on the tracks.

The suit says Hannah Barnes woke up as the train approached, but was frozen with fear and was unable to wake up Michael Hennen or to save herself.

The complaint says Hannah Barnes was working at the time at Hennen's Restaurant as a hostess and server. Michael Hennen, who was 27, was her supervisor.

It says on the night of Aug. 21, 2011, a party was being hosted at Hennen's Restaurant by Mr. Hennen's father, Tim Hennen, and others for the birthday celebration of Mr. Hennen's mother, Corrine McDonald Hennen.

The suit says the Hennens "knew or should have known that Hannah was 19 years old and legally underage to consume alcoholic beverages and/or beer."

It says restaurant records show that Hannah Barnes checked out of work at 10:59 p.m. and Michael Hennen not until 2 a.m. It says at 2:24 a.m. that Hannah Barnes "clocked in" to work. It says she apparently meant to clock out, but because she had already done so it recorded her as clocking in.

The complaint says Michael Hennen and Ms. Barnes then left to travel to McDonald Farm in Sale Creek. It says Mr. Hennen was going to show her the farm since she had never been to the family farm and they were going for "a late night swim" at the pool on the farm.

It says the exact time they left the restaurant is unknown because Michael Hennen forgot to activate the burglar alarm and because videotape showing them leaving allegedly was taped over.

At 2:59 a.m., Hannah Barnes sent a text to her mother telling her she was with Michael and she should not wait up for her, it was stated.

The suit says Hannah's vehicle was moved from outside of the parking garage above the restaurant into a space inside the garage reserved for the restaurant. The two then left in Michael Hennen's car.

They stopped at the Walmart on Signal Mountain Road, arriving sometime before 3:36 a.m. Michael Hennen purchased a camouflaged, two-piece bathing suit for Hannah, along with a beach ball. They left Walmart at 3:47 a.m.

They drove to the Kangaroo convenience store at Highway 27 and McCallie Ferry Road in Bakewell, where Michael bought a bottle of water, cigarettes and gummy bears.

The suit says Ms. Barnes was unfamiliar with the layout of the 300-acre farm.

It says Michael Hennen parked behind the main farmhouse. Nearby is a farm road "which wanders past some farm buildings before (it) eventually crosses the railroad tracks. The area of the crossing is poorly lit and poorly marked. The crossing itself is paved, smooth and flat. Upon information and belief, Hannah and Michael Hennen consumed one beer or less each which were obtained from a cooler located at McDonald Farms."

The complaint says instead of going swimming, they "walked in the dark to the crossing and laid down, presumably to talk and look at the stars. The area where the farm road crosses the train track was also dark.

"Having consumed alcoholic beverages and/or beer provided by Hennen's Restaurant, Tim P. Hennen, Corrine McDonald Hennen, and/or Michael Hennen and a beer from a cooler at McDonald Farms, Michael Hennen and Hannah fell asleep at this crossing. Hannah and Michael were positioned in such a way that Michael's body would have muffled the vibration of an approaching train.

"The farm road crossing is located in such a place as to create a hazard. The hazard was known to both McDonald Farms and Norfolk Southern. Despite this knowledge, McDonald Farms and Norfolk Southern allowed the hazardous crossing to be located where it was on Aug. 22, 2011.

"In fact, McDonald Farms and Norfolk Southern previously entered into an agreement whereby Norfolk Southern would not sound a horn or whistle as it approached the farm crossing.

"On Aug. 22, 2011, before 6 a.m., as the couple lay asleep on the tracks, a train owned and operated by defendant Norfolk Southern was southbound and approaching the poorly marked and poorly lighted farm crossing located on McDonald Farms property.

"The Norfolk Southern train was being operated by a conductor and an engineer. Part of the conductor's job is to keep a lookout and tell the engineer of any hazard on the track.

"As the train crested a hill and began to approach the McDonald Farms crossing, the engineer of the Norfolk Southern train failed to keep a proper lookout and did not see the couple on the tracks.

"As the train crested a hill and began to approach the McDonald Farms crossing, the conductor of the Norfolk Southern train saw "a person" on the track, but neglected to inform the engineer that there was someone on the tracks. Valuable time passed.

"Even after seeing "a person" on the tracks, the conductor and/or engineer failed to take action to sound the train horn, apply the emergency brake, implement emergency procedures, or attempt any other procedure or action that would have warned or afforded additional time for the couple to get off the train tracks."

"As the sound of the train approached, Hannah awoke and was frozen with fear as she grappled with her dire and deadly situation.

"As a result of the inaction of the conductor and/or engineer to warn the couple of the approaching train or slow the train after the conductor saw "a person" on the tracks, she was unable to rouse Michael from his deep slumber or save herself.

"As a result, shortly after 6 a.m. on Aug. 22, 2011, Michael Hennen and Hannah were struck by the train and tragically killed."

The suit, filed by attorneys C. Mark Warren and John Mark Griffin, says Hennen's Restaurant violated state law by providing alcoholic beverages to an underage person.

It says Hennen's was negligent in hiring Michael Hennen.      




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