Mother of teenage train victim sues for $25 million

Mother of teenage train victim sues for $25 million

July 30th, 2012 by Kate Belz in Local Regional News

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigators comb the site where two people were struck and killed by a train near Sale Creek, Tenn.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigators comb the site...

Photo by Tracey Trumbull /Times Free Press.

The mother of a teenage girl who was killed last year when she was struck by a train is asking six parties for a combined $25 million in a "wrongful death" lawsuit.

Lisa Barnes, mother of 19-year-old Hannah Barnes, has sued Hennen's Restaurant; Tim and Corrine Hennen - who are the parents of the other victim, 27-year-old Michael Hennen - Michael Hennen's estate; McDonald Farms, where the couple died; and Norfolk Southern Railway, which operated the train that struck the pair.

Hannah Barnes was a hostess and server at Hennen's, and Michael Hennen was her supervisor.

On Aug. 22, 2011, the two were killed after officials said they fell asleep on a railroad crossing on the Hennens' family's farm and were struck by an oncoming train early that morning.

Sheriff Jim Hammond called the incident a "tragic accident" after his department's investigation.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Mark Warren and John Mark Griffin, claims the accident was preventable and that it was the combined negligence of the restaurant, the Hennens, the farm and the train companies that led to the deaths.

The suit states that Hannah Barnes was provided with alcoholic drinks "either directly or indirectly" by Hennen's Restaurant, Michael Hennen and his parents both before and after she clocked out of work that night.

The two then went to McDonald Farm out in Sale Creek for a late-night swim, where the suit claims Michael Hennen "breached his duty of care when he led an intoxicated Hannah to the railroad tracks and convinced her to lie down."

Toxicology results taken after the incident last year showed that both Hannah Barnes and Michael Hennen were just under the limit for drunken driving.

The suit also claims that the train crossing where the two laid down was "poorly lit" and that the farm's owners had entered into an agreement with Norfolk Southern that trains would not blow a horn or whistle as it approached the farm's crossing.

The suit also claims that the conductor of the Norfolk Southern train saw a person on a track but failed to inform the engineer and that "valuable time passed" that could have given Hannah Barnes and Michael Hennen more time to save themselves.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.