Restaurant News

Lawsuit Claims Late Brennan's Bartender Raped Customer

The plaintiff alleges the restaurant exhibited negligence, implicating a former manager.

By Timothy Malcolm January 28, 2019

Brennan's of Houston

A lawsuit filed Monday in Harris County District Court claims a bartender at Brennan's of Houston drugged, then raped a customer. Further, it implicates a former manager as allegedly aiding and abetting in the assault, and seeks further damages from Brennan's for negligence and liability.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Buzbee Law Firm on behalf of a female referred to as Jane Doe, Doe was spending time at Brennan's with a male colleague on Oct. 19, 2015. Doe's colleague left, and she proceeded to order dinner at the bar where bartender Sean Kerrigan allegedly served her a spiked drink, the lawsuit alleges. Doe, a lawyer and partner at an international law firm who has been practicing for more than a decade, according to the lawsuit, remembered nothing else about the night, though the lawsuit claims surveillance video shows her impaired and being led out of Brennan's by manager Chris Lockhart, plus a female associate of the men in the presence of Kerrigan and another Brennan's manager. 

The lawsuit states that Doe briefly regained consciousness in the early morning hours while Kerrigan was violently assaulting her. She attempted to tell him to stop, but was too physically incapacitated to do anything about it, according to the lawsuit. Doe recalls waking the next morning with Kerrigan and Lockhart mocking her, before Kerrigan attempted to rape her again. She was still disoriented, but fought back. After the two men left, she claims, she realized they had stolen money and prescription medication from her purse. 

That evening an assessment at Ben Taub Hospital, the lawsuit states, confirmed Doe was suffering from "significant vaginal injuries consistent with rape." She reported the incident to Brennan's of Houston owner Alex Brennan-Martin, according to the complaint, who later informed her that both Kerrigan and Lockhart had been terminated.

Kerrigan was indicted on July 19 of last year for two felony counts of aggravated sexual assault, one of Doe, and another that reportedly occurred after the assault on Doe. The lawsuit claims Kerrigan had a past criminal record in his previous home in the New York/New Jersey area, which Brennan's management missed, according to the lawsuit, since they apparently did not conduct a background check on Kerrigan before hiring him. Last November, Kerrigan died of unknown causes.

The lawsuit holds Brennan's accountable for what happened to Doe, insisting that Lockhart "was acting in the course and scope of his employment as a manager at Brennan's" during the events of Oct. 19 and 20, 2015, and that he "aided, abetted, assisted and facilitated Kerrigan's sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress." The suit also alleges Brennan's "breached its duty of care owed" to Doe, and "had subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded in conscious indifference to the rights, safety, and/or welfare of others," including Doe.

Doe—who claims to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident, and was forced to take a leave of absence from her law firm last August—is seeking at least $20 million in damages related to "conscious physical and mental pain, and suffering and anguish," "physical impairment," and "loss of enjoyment of life and peace of mind, along with other damages to be shown at trial." She has requested a jury trial. 

When reached for comment, Brennan's of Houston stated that it was "shocked and appalled" to learn of the allegations in 2015 and confirms the employees were terminated in the aftermath due in part to these allegations. However, while Brennan's says it condemns "what she states happened to her in the strongest terms," the restaurant disputes the contention that Brennan-Martin is "responsible for the actions of individuals off work and off premises."

"In 2017, Ms. Doe informed Brennan’s management via email that she would be pressing charges against one of the employees and asked Brennan’s to cooperate with the Houston Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney, both of which we did fully," according to the statement issued from Brennan's of Houston. "In the same email correspondence, she thanked Mr. Brennan-Martin for his 'swift action' and expressly stated that Brennan’s was 'not at fault.'"

Brennan's of Houston says the lawsuit contradicts those past statements. 

"For over half a century, the Brennan’s reputation has been built on trust and respect," the statement concludes. "We believe we have always held true to our principles and we will make that case in court."

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