Hennens say $25 million train death lawsuit will cause more sorrow

Hennens say $25 million train death lawsuit will cause more sorrow

August 1st, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

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

Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Times Free Press.

Two people killed by train

The family named as a party in a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit has stated that the suit "will only cause greater sorrow" as they continue to cope with their own tragedy.

The Hennen family, which owns Hennen's Restaurant, has been sued by Lookout Mountain, Tenn., mother Lisa Barnes for what she calls acts of "negligence" that led to the death of her 19-year-old daughter and the Hennens' 27-year-old son last August.

Hannah Barnes and Michael Hennen were killed Aug. 22, 2011, when a train struck them while they were lying on a railway crossing on the Hennens' family farm.

On Tuesday, the family's attorney, Al Henry, issued a response to what he called Barnes' "regretful" and "meritless" lawsuit, stating that the family and the restaurant continue to mourn Hannah Barnes' death.

"What happened last August was an unspeakable tragedy that has had profound effects on the Hennen family and, undoubtedly, Hannah's family," Henry wrote. "This lawsuit will only cause greater sorrow as the families and friends of those involved will be forced to relive those events and the associated loss."

Michael Hennen, manager at Hennen's Restaurant, and Barnes, a hostess and server, had worked long shifts at the restaurant before heading out to the farm after midnight to swim.

Hamilton County sheriff's officials have maintained that the incident was a "tragic accident."

Lisa Barnes sued the family, the family's farm, Michael Hennen's estate and Norfolk Southern Railroad last week.

In the complaint, she said the Hennens "directly or indirectly" provided alcohol to the underage Hannah, which she said are "negligent" actions or inactions that "contributed to Hannah's tragic death."

She also claimed that the poorly lit railway crossing and the negligence of Norfolk Southern employees on the train were factors that could have been prevented.

Both of Lisa Barnes' attorneys, John Mark Griffin and Mark Warren, issued statements Monday night, saying they weren't at liberty to speak further about the suit.

"While we understand there may be many with questions, we do not believe it is appropriate for us to comment at this time," said Griffin.

The Hennens' statement said the family will not make any statements, and that any further responses to the suit will be issued through court documents.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.