Cracker Barrel ordered to pay $9.3m for serving customer cleaning agent instead of water at Marion County, Tennessee outlet. Civil lawsuit state cap is to limit damages to $750K.
A Tennessee jury has ordered Cracker Barrel to pay a man $9.3 million for serving him a glass filled with a chemical cleaning agent instead of water — but he’ll get far less due to a cap on damages, according to his attorney.
A Marion County jury awarded William Cronnon, whose mouth and esophagus were burned during an April 2014 visit to the country-themed restaurant chain, $4.3 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages on Jan. 6, court documents obtained by WTVC show.
But Cronnon will receive only about $750,000 — despite a jury finding that Cracker Barrel acted negligently — due to a state limit on economic damages, his attorney told the station Thursday.
‘This is an unfair law,’ attorney Thomas Greer said. ‘He will not receive anything close to what he is entitled to.’
A jury determined Cracker Barrel was at fault for serving Cronnon a glass filled with Eco-San sanitizer ( a commercial-grade bleach) instead of water during a 2014 lunch visit to a Marion County outlet. The chemical used to clean kitchen surfaces had been kept in unmarked pitchers, court documents stated.
Cracker Barrel likely to appeal verdict
Cronnon, whose initial lawsuit sought $150,000 in damages, suffered serious injuries in the incident, including internal burns that he’s still dealing with nearly eight years later, Greer said.
“Cracker Barrel servers regularly used unmarked water pitchers to mix water and Eco-San together, and then soaked parts of the soda machine in that mixture in order to clean them,” Greer wrote in a blog post.
The mix-up landed Cronnon in the ER with injuries to his mouth and esophagus, Greer told CNN.
Cronnon’s lawsuit does not indicate who specifically served him the corrosive cleaner instead of water. Greer accused Cracker Barrel of abusing the court system by denying that its employees did anything wrong.
‘They will likely appeal this verdict and do everything in their power to avoid paying this man a penny,’ Greer said. ‘And I will be prepared to fight for him.’
Reps for the restaurant chain said they were ‘disappointed’ by the jury’s verdict and were considering its options while saying they sough to better serve customers going forward.
‘Although we are considering our options with respect to this verdict, we are glad this matter is behind us so we can better focus on caring for our guests and employees around the country,’ Cracker Barrel told WTVC in a statement. ‘Our policy has been, and continues to be, to never put chemicals in any unmarked containers.’
Cracker Barrel negligence took away victim’s identity
The jury returned the verdict after deliberating for roughly 40 minutes, Greer told CNN.
‘The speed of the verdict, combined with an amount in excess of what we asked, speaks to just how dangerous the Cracker Barrel policy was,’ Greer told the network, which noted the size of the amount may be capped due to state law on civil damages.
Cronnon, who is still incurring medical expenses due to his injuries, refused to comment, Greer told CNN.
‘Cracker Barrel’s negligence didn’t just cause Mr. Smith physical harm, it took away part of his identity,’ Greer said.
Despite the cap restrictions, Greer said his client is happy about the money but ‘would take all the money … and throw it in the ocean to go back in time and not have this happen to him.’