Brennan's of Houston Brennan’s of Houston. (Flickr Creative Commons/Ed Schipul)

Jessica Crutcher, a litigation partner in Mayer Brown‘s Houston office, has chosen to publicly identify herself as the Big Law partner who sued Brennan’s of Houston for $20 million, alleging she was raped by a bartender formerly employed there.

Crutcher alleged in her suit that the rape and its aftermath caused “extreme emotional distress,” which interfered with her work as a lawyer. She was initially identified as Jane Doe in her petition filed in late January in state district court in Harris County, Texas.

The alleged attacker was criminally charged with sexual assault last year, but he has since died.

In an interview Tuesday, Crutcher said she was inspired to make her identity known by the clients she has represented pro bono who were victims of crime.

“I’ve done a lot of pro bono work over the years where I have seen my clients, survivors of horrible violence, very bravely stand up for themselves. I think I should be able to do the same thing here,” Crutcher said, a few days after she filed the third amended petition that identified her.

Crutcher, who has been on leave from Mayer Brown since last August and is undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, said her decision to include her name in the third amended petition also prevents the defendants from unmasking her.

Before filing the suit, Crutcher said she seriously considered using her name, but decided it was better to file it anonymously for her personal safety and to protect her privacy and the privacy of her firm.  She said she more recently decided she had “nothing to hide.”

Crutcher said Mayer Brown has been “very supportive” of her situation. She said is not sure when she will return to work, but that is her goal.

“I want my life back,” she said.

Contacted about the case, Mayer Brown said in a written statement Thursday: “We appreciate how incredibly difficult and challenging this experience has been, and continues to be, for Jessica. As our partner and colleague, she has our complete support in her recovery.”

Crutcher alleged in her petition that the bartender, Sean Kerrigan, drugged her and overserved her alcohol at Brennan’s in 2015, and later sexually assaulted her at her house. Her original petition named Brennan’s as the only defendant, but Crutcher has added Christopher Lockhart, a former manager at Brennan’s, as a defendant. Kerrigan died in 2018.

In an answer filed in April, Brennan’s generally denied the allegations and asserts it is not liable for the actions of employees that were not done in the course of their work for the company.  Brennan’s has also filed a motion to dismiss some of the plaintiff’s causes of action.

In a written statement on Thursday, Brennan’s said it has always “held true to its principles” and will make that case in court.

“While Brennan’s condemns what Ms. Crutcher claims happened to her in the strongest terms, we strenuously dispute any allegation that our family business is somehow responsible for the damages she claims.  We were supportive of her at the time of the incident and we cooperated with the criminal investigation she instigated more than two years later,” the statement said.

Lockhart filed an answer May 3. In the answer, he denied Crutcher’s allegations and argued that his actions were not the cause of any injuries to the plaintiff, among other affirmative defenses. 

A Similar Suit

Meanwhile, another woman recently sued a different bar in Houston, making similar claims against Kerrigan.

On May 2, that woman filed a $10 million suit against the operator of a Houston pub, alleging that bartender Kerrigan sexually assaulted her when they were co-workers there after Kerrigan was fired from Brennan’s.

The suit does not identify the bar—only its operator, Pub Mt LLC.

In Nguyen v. Pub Mt LLC, which was filed in state district court in Houston, the plaintiff brought claims of negligence, negligent supervision of activity, dram shop, premises liability and gross negligence causes of action against Pub Mt. She also claims the defendant is liable for the actions of its employees and bartenders.

According to the petition, Burleson & Craig, a Houston firm that does Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission work, represents Pub Mt. Partner Clyde Burleson did not return a call seeking comment.

Peter Taaffe, the plaintiff’s lawyer representing Crutcher, said the allegations in the recently filed suit reflect on Kerrigan. Taaffe said the new case bolsters his own client’s claims.

“This incident happened after my client was raped, but it is indicative of his character,” said Taaffe, of counsel at Buzbee Law Firm in Houston.

Houston plaintiffs lawyer Chad Pinkerton, who represents the pub employee plaintiff, said the allegations in the petition he filed May 2 show the “repetitive conduct of this bartender.”

In July 2018, Kerrigan was indicted for felony aggravated sexual assault of the pub employee and also felony sexual assault of Crutcher. However, he died and both criminal cases were dismissed, according to Harris County District Clerk records.

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