While extremely rare, eating at a restaurant chain can lead to serious injury (and sometimes even death .) Such was the unfortunate case of one customer dining at a Cracker Barrel in 2014. Now, the chain has been ordered to pay the man millions in damages for the "permanent and serious injury" he suffered thanks to a bizarre water jug mixup.
William Cronnon was eating at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant in Marion County, Tenn., in April of 2014, when he was served cleaning sanitizer in place of water. As he took a sip, he felt a burning sensation and ended up with injuries of the mouth and esophagus which he still suffers from today and which have hindered his ability to work .
It was later found that Cronnon had inadvertently been served Eco-San, a chemical used to clean the restaurant’s kitchen at the time. The National Fire Protection Association categorizes Eco-San as a chemical that poses a high health risk, while its manufacturer Ecolab states the sanitizer causes "severe skin burns and eye damage."
Cronnon filed a complaint against the chain in 2015, claiming the restaurant showed negligence with an extremely dangerous chemical and asked for compensation of $150,000. But a jury last week decided the company owed the victim a lot more and ordered Cracker Barrel to pay him $730,000 in economic damages, $3.6 million in non-economic damages, and $5 million in punitive damages, according to court records viewed by Chattanooga Times Free Press .
The jury found that Cracker Barrel acted negligently, including a "failure to hire and properly train qualified and competent employees."
Unfortunately, Cronnon will only see a small portion of that amount, some $750,000, according to his lawyer Thomas Greer , due to Tennessee’s cap on economic damages.
"What made this so egregious is that Cracker Barrel had this policy where they were putting chemicals in unmarked containers for years," Greer told Times Free Press . "What I argued to the jury was they were playing roulette with the health and safety with everybody who came in there, and Mr. Cronnon paid the price."