A Circuit Court jury on Wednesday afternoon found Hennen's Restaurant not at fault in the $25 million lawsuit brought by Lisa Barnes.
The jury in the courtroom of Judge Neil Thomas delivered the verdict at mid-afternoon after starting deliberations after lunch. The decision in the highly-emotional case came at the end of a trial that lasted over a week.
Attorney Mark Warren said in his closing statement in the civil suit against Hennen's Restaurant, "It doesn't take two medical examiners to tell us that only two people with impaired judgment would go and lay down on railroad tracks."
He told the jury there were two major rules that had been broken. He said a 27-year-old man should never serve alcohol to a minor and that a restaurant should not serve anyone underage.
He said that on the surveillance tape from when Hannah Barnes and Michael Hennen went to Walmart after leaving Hennen's, they both were visibly intoxicated. He pointed out that Hannah was playing with a beach ball and that Michael had some difficulty using an ATM.
He also told the jury what he believed Lisa Barnes, the mother of Hannah Barnes, should be awarded in damages. He included Hannah's lifetime of lost future wages and said she should also be compensated for the horror she experienced on the train tracks.
Attorney Al Henry spoke in defense of Hennen's Restaurant. He said, "This case is built upon speculation."
He said, "Some lawsuits need to be filed. Some don't." He told the jury this lawsuit was like "reopening a wound and pouring salt in it," as the Hennens lost a child as well. He called it, "cruel, wrong, and only for money."
He asked, "Do you think it will bring them back?"
He told the jury that the Hennens had fully cooperated with police throughout the investigation and had the same interest in finding out what had happened as Hannah's family.
He said Hannah had been fighting with her mother about money, so the Hennens even helped her out by giving her a $150 tip during her shift that night.
He stated that ultimately, Hannah and Michael were both adults. He said, "You don't have to be 21 to know that it's dangerous to be by a railroad track." He said they made a poor choice and did something dangerous, but that their death was accidental.
In his rebuttal, Attorney Warren mentioned wine samplings that the employees of Hennen's had been allowed to participate in. Underage employees could taste but they had to spit it out. However, Attorney Warren said even this was against the law.
He said, "What they should be doing at these wine samplings is stressing the importance of being 21 and why we have a law like that in Tennessee."
He told the jury to make a stand, saying, "You can turn this into a legacy. No more underage drinking in the restaurants, in the bars in Chattanooga."