Cracker Barrel Ordered to Pay $9.4 Million to Man Who Was Served Sanitizer

A jury in Tennessee has ordered Cracker Barrel to pay $9.4 million to a man who was served sanitizer instead of water.

The incident took place in April 2014, when William Cronnon was having lunch at a Cracker Barrel location in Marion County.

"The waitress re-fills his glass after his meal with what she thought was water but turned out to be a mixture of water and Eco-San—a commercial grade bleach," Thomas Greer, an attorney representing Cronnon, said.

Servers in the kitchen regularly used unmarked pitchers to mix water with Eco-San, and used the mixture to clean parts of the restaurant's soda machine, according to Greer.

Cracker Barrel sign
A Cracker Barrel Old Country Store sign is visible atop one of its locations on April 12, 2002 in Naperville, Illinois. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Greer said Cronnon developed gastrointestinal issues shortly after, including regular cramping, bloating and diarrhea.

The lawsuit filed against Cracker Barrel argued that drinking the mixture had caused severe and persistent injuries to Cronnon and meant he was unable to continue working.

"Cracker Barrel's negligence didn't just cause Mr. Cronnon physical harm; it took away part of his identity," Greer said.

Greer said the jury had "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.

"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," said Greer.

However, the size of the award will reportedly be capped to $75,000 due to a Tennessee law on civil damages.

Greer told WTVC that the law was "unfair" as Cronnon has a "lifetime of healthcare needs facing him in the future."

"This is an unfair law that only affects people who are seriously injured, and he will not even receive what he is entitled to," he said.

The attorney has been contacted for additional comment.

In a statement provided to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Cracker Barrel said the company was "disappointed" with the outcome of the lawsuit.

"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 spokesperson said.

"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."