Cracker Barrel Ordered to Pay Man $9.3M After He Was Served Liquid Cleaner Instead of Water

·3 min read
Cracker Barrel store
Cracker Barrel store

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Cracker Barrel has been ordered to pay a man $9.3 million dollars after he was accidentally served a liquid cleaning agent instead of water at a Tennessee location.

The plaintiff, William Cronnon, was dining at a Marion County Cracker Barrel in April 2014 when he was allegedly served a mixture of the cleaning product Eco-San and water. After taking a few sips of what he thought was water, he "immediately" realized "that it was not ice water but was some chemical that caused a burning sensation in his mouth and esophagus," according to CNN.

Cronnon's attorney Thomas Greer alleged to PEOPLE that "it's something that never should've happened. It was totally and completely 100 percent preventable and the unsafe practices at the store had been going on for years."

"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 said on his company website.

Shortly after consuming the sanitizer mixture, Cronnon reportedly developed regular cramping and reflux pain after meals and he continues to be plagued with "a lifetime of healthcare needs facing him in the future" in his throat and lungs, per WRAL.

On his website, Greer said the court's decision was "one of the fastest verdicts we have ever seen."

"The jury returned a verdict for compensatory damages of $4.3 million in just 30 minutes — one of the fastest verdicts we have ever seen — and awarded punitive damages of $5 million after only 10 minutes of additional deliberation," he said.

Greer continued, "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."

A representative for the southern-themed restaurant chain tells PEOPLE that the company disagrees with the jury's decision.

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"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," they said in a statement.

"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."

RELATED: 73-Year-Old Vietnam Vet Fired from Cracker Barrel for Giving Away Cornbread

Though the multi-million dollar award is a victory for the plaintiff, Greer tells PEOPLE that a Tennessee law, which puts a $750,000 limit on non-economic damages in lawsuits, will reduce Cronnon's award to a total of around $4.5 million with compensatory and punitive damages.

But he doesn't think his client will be awarded that money anytime soon as he expects the company will appeal the ruling.

"They're going to fight and do everything in their power to avoid paying this man any money," says Greer. "They haven't done the right thing in eight years, I don't expect them to do the right thing now."

Cracker Barrel told The Washington Post, "Our policy has been, and continues to be, to never put chemicals in any unmarked containers. Again, this is an unfortunate and isolated incident that occurred at one of our stores eight years ago."

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