Sister Of Mother Of Hannah Barnes Testifies For Hennens; Says Bringing Lawsuit "Was Absolutely Dead Wrong"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The sister of the mother of Hannah Barnes testified Thursday for the Hennen family, saying it was "absolutely dead wrong" for Lisa Barnes to file a $25 million lawsuit.

Rhonda Strauss, of Tallahassee, Fla., said when she found that the lawsuit was filed, she contacted the attorney for the Hennens, Al Henry.

She provided him with Facebook photos that were posted by Hannah Barnes, showing her at her mother's apartment on New Year's Eve 2010 holding some type of drink in a Koozie. She was 16 at the time. 

They were shown to jurors in the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas. The trial recessed early on Thursday afternoon when the plaintiff's side ran out of witnesses. It will resume Friday morning.

The lawsuit blames Hennen's Restaurant for allowing the 19-year-old Ms. Barnes to drink along with Michael Hennen at the downtown restaurant after closing. They were found dead on railroad tracks at McDonald Farm at Sale Creek several hours later on Aug. 22, 2011.

Ms. Strauss said she did not have a lot of contact with Hannah, but she said she spoke with her one Thanksgiving and she told her she "felt stuck. She wanted to go to school somewhere - away from Chattanooga and away from her mother."

She said Hannah was short of money, "and she did not get a lot of help from her mother." 

She said Lisa Barnes charged her daughter rent and for food she ate at home. She said when Hannah would get a raise she would have to pay her mother a higher amount of rent. 

Ms. Strauss said she was also Facebook friends with her sister, Lisa, "but now I'm not her friend on Facebook."

The witness said, "This was a very tragic accident. The Hennens were very fond of Hannah and they lost their son. It was a double loss for them. To blame them for this is wrong."

Ms. Strauss was called out of turn by agreement by both sides. The defense says it will later call Phil Barnes, father of Hannah, who will also say he does not agree with bringing the lawsuit.

Ivan Thomas, a server at Hennen's since it opened in 2005, said he worked a birthday party at the restaurant for Michael Hennen's mother, Corinne McDonald Hennen, on the night before the tragedy. He said 25 people were at the gathering.

He said Tim Hennen, father of Michael and the restaurant owner, gave a $150 cash tip to himself and Hannah for handling the party.

The witness said he clocked out at 10:31 p.m. and only Michael and Hannah were still there.

He and other witnesses noted that Hennen's has never been cited to the Beer Board for serving any underage person.

He said that sometimes servers have wine tastings in order to prepare for a meal. He said most spit out the wine after swishing it around their mouth to get an idea of its taste. He said underage servers sometimes took part in those tastings.

Mr. Thomas said that night Hannah was talking about "school coming up and she was short on money."

Jonathan Maley, who was a manager at Hennen's, said Hannah had started as a hostess and had only worked as a server for a short time when she was killed.

He said Michael Hennen was over the bar section of the restaurant as part of his duties.

The witness said he had never seen Hannah drink at work other than tasting the wine and spitting it out. 

He said he only watched a minute and a half of the Hennen's security tape showing Michael and Hannah in the bar area in the early morning hours just prior to their deaths because it was "incredibly upsetting" to him. He said this was the day after he found out about their deaths.

Chad Cox, former Hennen's general manager, said he got a call from Hennen's official Rob Stickley several days after the deaths asking him to check about preserving the video security tape. He said he called in an expert, who said the tape had already been lost because it was only available for 72 hours.

"He tried to retrieve it, but it was no longer there," he said.

The witness said Michael Hennen would sometimes stay late at the restaurant, watching ball games or checking the Internet.

He said on occasions that the Hennen's kitchen staff would be given free beer "as a thank you when they had worked very hard." He at first said that happened every 4-6 weeks, but he later said it may have occurred five times over his four years with the restaurant.

On the tastings, he said mostly it was wine, but on one occasion the servers tested whiskey and another time vodka.

Mr. Cox admitted that he had been fired from Hennen's last May after Tim Hennen discovered that he had been taking money from the restaurant. He said he would take money for himself that should have been deposited for the restaurant.

He said this amounted to some $14,000.

He said he agreed that he would try to repay the money within a year and was told he would not be prosecuted.

He said he considered the money as bonuses. He said he felt he had been promised bonuses earlier that he had not received.  

The plaintiff called Howard Cannon, known as the Restaurant Rhino, who said Hennen's was violating state law if it allowed an underage employee to have a drink on premises.

He was paid some $15,000 for his services in the case, including a stay at the Read House on Wednesday night, it was stated.  




 

 


 


Latest Hamilton County Arrest Report

Soddy Daisy Moving Toward Beer Sales 7 Days A Week, 24 Hours A Day

2 Arrested After Police Chase Into Georgia


Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AARON, DONAVAN RAY 935 GREENHILL DR ROSSVILLE, 30741 Age at Arrest: 27 years old Arresting Agency: Soddy Daisy POSSESSION ... (click for more)

Beer sales will be allowed 24 hours and day, seven days a week, in Soddy Daisy if an amendment to the city’s ordinance regulating hours passes on a second vote at the next commission meeting. ... (click for more)

Two men were arrested Thursday afternoon after a police chase that started in Rossville and ended across state lines in Georgia. Police said they had put out a bulletin for a vehicle that ... (click for more)


Breaking News

Latest Hamilton County Arrest Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AARON, DONAVAN RAY 935 GREENHILL DR ROSSVILLE, 30741 Age at Arrest: 27 years old Arresting Agency: Soddy Daisy POSSESSION OF METHAMPHETAMINE CRIMINAL IMPERSONATION POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA --- BRADLEY, COURTLAND MARCELL 901 CURLYCUE DRIVE CHATTANOOGA, 37411 Age at Arrest: 21 years old Arresting ... (click for more)

Soddy Daisy Moving Toward Beer Sales 7 Days A Week, 24 Hours A Day

Beer sales will be allowed 24 hours and day, seven days a week, in Soddy Daisy if an amendment to the city’s ordinance regulating hours passes on a second vote at the next commission meeting. The state of Tennessee regulates the sale of wine and liquor and changes have been made that allow the sale of both to begin at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Currently the city allows beer sales ... (click for more)

Opinion

Save The Wildlife, Mr. Berke

Why in the world would there be any question regarding the wildlife at East Lake park, and the humane relocation of same? Why would anyone need to beg for the right thing to be done? Maybe if the ducks could ride scooters, there would be money for this. Or maybe if they had means to pay for one of the so-called affordable apartments we have in Chattanooga, they would rate the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What's 'Good' About It?

For the biggest part of my life (a real long time) I refused to acknowledge what is “good” about Good Friday. Today, in literally every country on earth, it is ‘Good Friday’ and, nope, nothing is “good” about killing my Jesus. Forget that it is the most singular display of His love for me, and I push all of the human race aside, to stand completely alone, and feel Jesus’ eyes on ... (click for more)

Sports

Softball: Lady Trojans Edge Lady Raiders, 4-3, In Big 5-3A Victory

Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans will go into Friday’s Lady Trojan Invitational at Warner Park riding high after a come-from-behind 4-3 victory Thursday against Cleveland. Soddy-Daisy’s win coupled with McMinn County’s stunning 4-1 victory over Walker Valley moved the Lady Trojans into first place by 20 percentage points over the Lady Mustangs. In the other district game, East Hamilton ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Football Club And Nightfall Join Forces For 2019 Jersey Reveal

Chattanooga Football Club announced on Thursday its annual Jersey Reveal that will take place Friday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Miller Plaza to help kick off the opening night of Chattanooga’s long-standing concert series, Nightfall. The event is free and all are encouraged to attend. Entering its 32nd year, Nightfall is consistently voted one of Chattanooga’s favorite events. ... (click for more)