A lawsuit filed in Harris County court on January 28 alleges that a former bartender at Brennan’s of Houston drugged and then sexually assaulted a patron who had been dining at the restaurant.
The lawsuit, brought on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff referred to as “Jane Doe,” claims that Sean Kerrigan, formerly a bartender at Brennan’s of Houston, drugged the victim’s drink, continued to over-serve her alcohol, and eventually led her out of the restaurant in October 2015. After leaving the restaurant, Kerrigan allegedly took the victim to an unnamed bar before violently sexually assaulting her in her home. The description of the alleged assault in the complaint is extremely graphic, and indicates that Jane Doe was raped multiple times over the course of several hours. Kerrigan later died of “unknown causes” in late 2018.
Also named in the suit is Brennan’s manager Chris Lockhart. The petition claims that Lockhart was caught on surveillance video taking Jane Doe out of the restaurant, and then allegedly accompanied Kerrigan and the victim to the second bar. “Lockhart, at a minimum, aided and abetted the rape and attempted continuation of the assault the next morning,” reads the complaint. Attorneys for Jane Doe also claim that Lockhart and Kerrigan stole money and prescription medication from her purse. Last July, Kerrigan was indicted in Harris County on charges of felony sexual assault related to the incident, but Kerrigan died before the case could be adjudicated.
As far as Brennan’s alleged culpability in the incident is concerned, Jane Doe’s attorneys claim that both Kerrigan and Lockhart were acting in their capacity as Brennan’s employees when the incident began. “Lockhart was acting in the course and scope of his employment as a manager at Brennan’s [when he] took Plaintiff from Brennans to another bar, and then to her home where his accomplice, Kerrigan, committed sexual abuse, sexual assaults, and sexual battery on Plaintiff,” the suit reads in part. “Kerrigan was acting in the course and scope of his employment at Brennan’s when he drugged Plaintiff and over-served her with alcohol. He left with her from Brennan’s and took her to her home, where he raped her and intentionally caused severe emotional distress to her.”
Further, the suit also argues that Brennan’s of Houston breached its “duty of care” to Jane Doe as a patron of the restaurant. “Brennan’s owed Plaintiff a duty of ordinary care to prevent Kerrigan from sexually assaulting her, with the aid and assistance of Lockhart, including the duty of care hiring, employing, managing and retaining Kerrigan and Lockhart,” the suit continues.
The plaintiff is seeking up to $20 million in damages related to physical and mental pain, loss of earnings, and medical expenses. The lawsuit claims that Jane Doe was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident, forcing her to take a leave of absence from work.
When reached for comment by Eater, a representative for Brennan’s provided the following statement:
For more than 50 years, Brennan’s core values of care, service and respect for our guests, employees and partners has guided the culture of our family business. As such, we were shocked and appalled when a patron currently named as “Jane Doe” alleged, in October 2015, that two of our employees had assaulted her in her home. The employees were terminated in part because of the allegation.
While we condemn what she states happened to her in the strongest terms, we strenuously dispute any allegation that Brennan’s or Mr. Brennan-Martin (proprietor) is somehow 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. In the same email correspondence, she thanked Mr. Brennan-Martin for his “swift action” and expressly stated that Brennan’s was “not at fault.”
Unfortunately, one of the employees passed away in November 2018 before Ms. Doe’s charges against him could be tried in a court of law. And today, sadly, she contradicted her previous statements with the filing of this lawsuit against Brennan’s.
For over half a century, the Brennan’s reputation has been built on trust and respect. We believe we have always held true to our principles and we will make that case in court.
Brennan’s of Houston has not officially responded to the lawsuit in court, though a response is expected in the coming weeks. No trial date for Jane Doe’s lawsuit has been set just yet. Eater will continue to update this story as more details become available.