A man who was served a glass of cleaning chemical instead of water at a Cracker Barrel has been awarded $9.4 million as compensation.
William Cronnon was having lunch at the Tennessee restaurant in April 2014, when a waitress re-filled his glass with what she thought was water. However, it turned out to be a mixture of water and Eco-San, a commercial grade bleach, his lawyers claimed.
Cronnon Says He Suffered Permanent Damage
As soon as he consumed it, Cronnon experienced a burning sensation in his mouth and esophagus and went to the ER to seek treatment. Since that day, Cronnon has suffered gastro intestinal issues such as cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, and reflux pain after meals, since that day, according to his attorney, Thomas Greer.
Eight years later, he has been awarded $730,000 in economic damages, $3.6million for pain and suffering, and a further $5million in punitive damages, thanks to a Marion County jury. Cronnon was only seeking $150,000.
Even though Cronnon won the 9.4 million award, due to a law enacted in Tennessee in 2014 on civil damages, he may only receive a fraction of the amount. According to the law, compensation for any non-economic damages suffered cannot exceed $750k, while punitive damages are capped at two times the total amount of compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Restaurant Servers Used Unmarked Water Pitchers for Cleaning, Claims Greer
According to Greer, 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. He said the company initially denied they did this, but that three former employees confirmed it. As part of its defense, the company had described all three as "disgruntled" and non-credible, he said.
Greer also claimed the company tried to deny the substance was Eco-San, yet while Cronnon was in the emergency room, Cracker Barrel's corporate office had faxed the Safety Data Sheet for the Eco-San to the hospital. "This clearly shows that Cracker Barrel knew immediately after the incident exactly what happened," he claimed.
Cracker Barrel 'Disappointed' with Verdict
In a statement, Cracker Barrel said it was "disappointed" in the verdict. "While we have great respect for the legal process, we are obviously disappointed by and strongly disagree with the jury's award in this case, which involved an unfortunate and isolated incident that occurred at one of our stores eight years ago," the company told CNN.
"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."
According to Greer, the restaurant chain is expected to file an appeal. "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."