published Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Lawyer shares details of appeal by mother of teen who died when struck by a train

An attorney for the mother of a 19-year-old woman who died when struck by a train in 2011 has shared some of the reasons his client is appealing a jury verdict that cleared the restaurant where the teenager worked of any wrongdoing.

C. Mark Warren responded by email to a Times Free Press request for comment on the notice of appeal filed Monday following a January jury verdict in Lisa Barnes' $25 million lawsuit against Hennen's Restaurant.

"As long as area restaurants, including Hennen's Restaurant, continue to provide alcohol to its employees in pre-shift meetings, the community at large is at risk," Warren wrote.

In the early phase of the three-week trial and again in closing arguments, Warren and co-counsel John Mark Griffin pointed to the pre-shift alcohol sampling by wait staff at the restaurant as proof of a culture of drinking.

Hannah Barnes worked at Hennen's before her death on Aug. 22, 2011. Restaurant manager Michael Hennen, the son of owner Tim Hennen, died along with Barnes when they were struck by a train near McDonald Farm. They were lying on the railroad tracks at 5:50 a.m. when the train hit them.

Lisa Barnes' attorneys alleged that Hannah Barnes drank alcohol at the restaurant in the hours preceding her death after her shift. They claimed that the drinking contributed to Hannah later being on the train tracks and her death.

A jury took 90 minutes to decide that the restaurant was not at fault.

Warren further explained in his email that the main basis for the appeal was that Judge Neil Thomas III should have instructed the jury that since the restaurant "destroyed the only evidence of Hannah Barnes and Michael Hennen at the restaurant bar before they left for McDonald Farm," the evidence should have been presumed to be prejudicial against Hennen's.

Video footage of the pair at the Hennen bar before they left was recorded over and unavailable for the trial.

He also wrote that he would appeal the admissibility of evidence from social media sources, such as Facebook postings.

Multiple Facebook postings were shown in the trial by defense attorney Al Henry attempting to show that Hannah Barnes drank alcohol before working at Hennen's.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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