Jury Finds Hennen's Restaurant Not At Fault In $25 Million Lawsuit Brought By Lisa Barnes

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

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."


HCSO Looking For Suspects Involved In Check Cashing Fraud

Two fraudulent checks were cashed at separate times on Thursday. The first check was cashed by a heavy set black male wearing a ball cap and white tank top.  The second check was cashed by a skinny, young male who was in the company of two younger black males. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is working this fraud investigation and is requesting the  public’s ... (click for more)

Big River Grille Employees’ Fight Over Apron Ends In Arrest

A fight over a stolen apron ended in an arrest for employees at Big River Grille, police said. After arriving on scene Sunday night, police said they spoke to two victims who had abrasions on their faces. The female victim told officers that she had confronted her co-worker, Tyree Scott, about stealing her server apron. She said Scott became enraged and attacked her, ... (click for more)

Judge Steelman Was Unfairly Criticized In Handling Of School Bus Driver Rape Case - And Response

We are blessed to have freedom of speech in our society, but I am always amazed at the number of folks who voice such strong antagonistic opinions about things without any apparent first-hand knowledge.   As any who wish to criticize the system should know, people get arrested and charged for criminal offenses every day.  The ultimate charge and penalty which results ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vote For Rhonda Thurman

After studying the Hamilton County School Board quite harshly during the last seven most-tumultuous months in its history, it is only proper that I share my belief that Rhonda is its Most Valuable Player. Four of the school board’s nine members are up for re-election, with Rhonda facing capable opponents in Jason Moses and Dr. Patti Skates in District 1, but let’s never forget that ... (click for more)

Williams Hired To Lead Restart Of Owls Boys' Basketball

Jay Williams has been hired as Ooltewah’s head boys’ basketball coach, a program rocked by a rape scandal last December that eventually led Hamilton County School officials to disband the varsity team and cancel more than half its schedule. Williams, who has strong ties to Ooltewah High School, previously coached at LaFayette School and Northwest Whitfield high schools in Northwest ... (click for more)

TSSAA Sets Future Division I, Division II Classifications

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Board of Control has released the minutes from Wednesday’s meeting in Hermitage pertaining to football classification period for the 2017-18 and run through 2020-2021 1.  Roll Call 2.  Division I and Division II Classification The Board of Control voted the following for the classification period that ... (click for more)