Bailey & Greer, PLLC is proud to announce that partner Thomas Greer recently secured a $9.4M jury verdict on behalf of a client who suffered long-term injury after being served toxic chemicals at Cracker Barrel. 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. 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.
In April 2014, our client – we’ll call him “John Smith” – eats lunch at Cracker Barrel. 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. 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.
Mr. Smith goes to the ER for treatment. He develops GI issues shortly after, like regular cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and reflux pain after meals. He contacted Bailey & Greer, and partner Thomas Greer represented him.
While Mr. Smith is in the ER, Cracker Barrel’s corporate office faxes the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for Eco-San to the ER. This clearly shows that Cracker Barrel knew immediately after the incident exactly what happened. But after the lawsuit is filed, Cracker Barrel denies it was Eco-San, and continues to deny it throughout trial.
How we proved our case
As our first witness, we called Cracker Barrel’s corporate representative to testify. This witness denied that servers used unmarked water pitchers to soak soda fountain parts in Eco-San. The company agreed that if they did, it would: 1) be negligent, 2) be reckless; 3) violate Cracker Barrel policies; and 4) violate Federal law (OSHA).
But two former servers and an associate manager (who was still employed by Cracker Barrel during the deposition but had left the company by the time the trial started) testified they always used unmarked water pitchers to soak things in Eco-San. This is how people were trained; everyone knew about it.
We argued that Mr. Smith’s injuries were severe and persistent enough that he could not work. Bailey & Greer worked with a life care planner and a loss of earnings expert to show the full extent of these injuries, and the economic toll they caused.
What the defense said
The defense tried to argue that the employees were “disgruntled” and non-credible, and that the injuries were related to some other issue, because the initial treatment at the ER showed no caustic damage. An upper endoscopy done the next day showed no damage to throat or esophagus, only mild redness in top part of stomach. Never mind that Mr. Smith’s claim for injuries did not include damage that involved his throat or esophagus. They argued that because injuries to those part of the body were not on the scan the next day, that he must not have suffered any injury at all. They also tried to argue that our client had quit his job to move in with his girlfriend after his former employer went bankrupt, and that he shouldn’t be entitled to lost wages.
At trial, we were able to destroy all of these defenses. The jury wisely saw through the defenses and returned a verdict in our favor.
Mr. Smith is, potentially, the hardest working client we’ve ever had. He started a full-time, 3rd shift position when he was still in high school, going to school during the day and work at night. He worked his way from the bottom to the top in textile factories; it was the only job he knew how to do, and he loved working. Because of his injuries, he couldn’t work. Cracker Barrel’s negligence didn’t just cause Mr. Smith physical harm; it took away part of his identity. When the jury announced its verdict, he was brought to tears – not only did the jury believe him, but he will be able to pay his bills and protect his family, now and in the future.
We are very happy that the jury found for our client. He is a good, honest person, and he must live with the fallout of Cracker Barrel’s dangerous policy for the rest of his life. It was our honor to help him get justice all these years later.
Bailey & Greer, PLLC is proud to fight for the people of Tennessee. If you suffered an injury because of someone else’s negligence, we are here to help. We maintain offices in Memphis, Jackson, and Nashville. To schedule a no-obligation consultation today, please call 901.475.7434 or fill out our contact form.
Since graduating magna cum laude in 2005 from the University of Memphis School of Law, Thomas has helped make a difference in the lives of victims of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and professional negligence. Thomas has extensive trial experience in both state and federal court. Among other victories in the courtroom, Thomas obtained several impressive jury verdicts and settlements
Read more about Thomas R. Greer