A Marion County jury unanimously reached a verdict on last week in the amount of 9.4 million dollars for a case where a man was served a chemical named Eco-San instead of water at a Cracker Barrel in Kimball, Tennessee.
The 12 people jury deliberated from January 4th to the 6th, listening to evidence and key witnesses.
The verdict shows the jury found Cracker Barrel to have shown negligence (failure to use reasonable care) and recklessness (egregious conduct and known risk).
Thomas Greer, an attorney with Bailey & Greer, represented Plaintiff William Cronnon in the case.
Court records indicate the incident involving Cronnon and Cracker Barrel occurred on April 25, 2014. Then a lawsuit was filed in 2015. After 8 long years, Attorney Greer said the verdict was a long time coming.
"Cracker Barrel unsafe polices and procedures and had unsafe training practices...What they were doing was training their servers to soak the parts of the soda fountain machine-little black pieces that unscrew from the soda fountain machine- and they were training those servers to soak those parts in an unmarked water pitcher like this with a mixture of a commercial grade bleach called Eco-San and water," said Attorney Greer.
He said these unsafe procedures, polices and training practices are what caused Cronnon to become a victim.
He said Cronnon- a then Marion County resident-had stopped by the Cracker Barrel in Kimball, Tennessee in 2014 for lunch, asked for water, and instead was served Eco-San or sanitizer mixed with water in his cup.
Greer said the sanitizer had been left overnight in the pitcher to clean soda fountain machinery, when the server picked up the water pitcher to serve Cronnon.
"He (Cronnon) took four big gulps of the liquid before realizing that it was not water, he immediately he has intense burning in his mouth and throat, he can't breathe, he starts coughing up bloody mucus."
He told Channel 3 his client was rushed to the ER, and Cracker Barrel faxed an Eco-San Safety Data Sheet shortly after, proving that Cracker Barrel was aware of the incident.
Court transcripts between the restaurant's representative and Greer show that Cracker Barrel denied any wrongdoing during the trial.
Cracker Barrel responded to the verdict and said:
"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. Although we are considering our options with respect to yesterday’s verdict, we are glad that this matter is behind us so that we can better focus on caring for our guests and employees around the country."
Court records showing compensatory damages were as follows:
730,000 dollars for economic damages such as medical bills past and future.
3.6 million dollars for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, Greer said Cronnon had gastrointestinal issues daily, and also suffered a loss of wages.
Punitive damages amounted to 5 million that was reached only 10 minutes after the original deliberation.
The entire verdict was decided under 30 minutes, Attorney Greer said.
"Those (punitive damages) are designed to do is not to compensate my client, but to punish Cracker Barrel for its egregious misconduct and to send a message to restaurants across the state of Tennessee that this is an unsafe practice," said Attorney Greer.
He said this verdict not only helps his client get the justice he deserves, but sets a precedent statewide.
Because of state law, the awarded 9.4 million dollars that exceeded Cronnon and his attorney's expectations, will be reduced to a little over 6 million.
Greer said he expects Cracker Barrel to file a motion for a new trial to dispute this verdict, but hopes this isn't the case.
If Cracker Barrel files a motion for a new trial, he said, the awarded amount could take a long time to get into their hands.