Cracker Barrel Ordered to Pay Millions to Man Accidentally Served Toxic Chemicals: Report

by Jennifer Shea

Cracker Barrel recently lost a costly lawsuit. The suit came about after one of its servers gave a Tennessee man a glass of water laced with toxic cleaning chemicals back in 2014.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff in the case, he’ll only get a fraction of what he won. The Marion County, Tennessee jury awarded him $4.3 million. But he’ll get much less than that. Why? Because Tennessee has a law that caps economic damages from these types of lawsuits, WTVC reports.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, William Cronnon, was having lunch at his local Cracker Barrel one day. He received what he thought was a glass of ice water. Upon drinking it, he immediately realized it was something else. Something that caused a burning sensation in his mouth and esophagus.

His local Cracker Barrel had stored the chemical that he ingested, Eco-San, in unmarked pitchers in the kitchen, where it was used for cleaning. The National Fire Protection Association (NPFA) rates the chemicals in Eco-San as “extremely dangerous.”

According to the lawsuit, Cronnon sustained permanent internal damage from ingesting the chemical. And he has continued to suffer symptoms for years after drinking the solution.

“As a result of the fault and negligence of the Defendant described above, Plaintiff has and continues to suffer severe permanent injuries,” the lawsuit reads. “He has incurred and will continue to incur medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent injury, lost wages and future earning capacity, and loss of enjoyment of life.”

Jury Award Went Above and Beyond What Lawsuit Asked

The jury was apparently horrified by Cronnon’s experience. They awarded him more than the $150,000 in damages the lawsuit originally sought. In fact, they gave him $3.6 million in non-economic damages and $730,000 in economic damages.

But Cronnon’s attorney told WTVC his client can’t get the full amount due to Tennessee law. Indeed, the most he can take home is $750,000.

“This is an unfair law,” attorney Thomas Greer said. “He will not receive anything close to what he is entitled to.”

Moreover, “instead of taking personal responsibility and personal accountability for their conduct, [Cracker Barrel] abused the court system by denying that they did anything wrong,” Greer added. “They will likely appeal this verdict and do everything in their power to avoid paying this man a penny. And I will be prepared to fight for him.”

Cracker Barrel ‘Strongly Disagrees’ with Jury’s Decision

Meanwhile, in a statement to WTVC, Cracker Barrel insisted that its policy “has been, and continues to be” not to store chemicals in unmarked containers. The company also suggested that it is considering fighting the jury’s verdict with an appeal.

“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,” the company said. It went on to call Cronnon’s experience “an unfortunate and isolated incident that occurred at one of our stores eight years ago.” And it added, “Although we are considering our options with respect to this verdict, we are glad this matter is behind us.”

Cracker Barrel said it now plans to “focus on caring for our guests and employees around the country.”