Man drinks bleach at restaurant, awarded more than $9M by jury

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Man drinks bleach at restaurant, awarded more than $9M by jury

January 19, 2022 -

© Richard Villalon/

© Richard Villalon/

© Richard Villalon/

William Cronnon was eating lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in April 2014. His waitress accidentally refilled his glass with a mixture of water and Eco-San, a commercial-grade bleach.

According to his attorney, Cronnon went to the emergency room for treatment and developed gastrointestinal issues I won’t describe here. The attorney stated that Cronnon’s injuries were “severe and persistent enough” that he could no longer work. The case went to trial, where a jury awarded Cronnon compensatory damages totaling $4.3 million and punitive damages of $5 million.

I can find no evidence that the waitress intended to harm him or that he intended to be harmed. She sincerely thought she was refilling his glass with water. He sincerely thought he was drinking water. 

But both were sincerely wrong.

Former policeman indicted in death of his mother

This week we’re exploring ways to relate redemptively to our broken society. On Monday, we discussed New York Times columnist David Brooks’ compelling description of America as “falling apart at the seams.” Yesterday, we identified three reasons to choose compassion in responding to those who reject biblical truth and morality.

Today, let’s take an additional step into such solidarity.

Some sins are obviously intentional and deserve the opprobrium of society. An example is the former New York police officer who has been indicted in the death of his mother, who was found nearly decapitated in her Queens home last year. 

At other times, those who suffer are not at fault and deserve our full sympathy and support. An example is the disaster in Tonga caused by the largest volcanic eruption in more than thirty years and the resulting tsunami waves it sent crashing across the Pacific. Clearly, no one on the island could have caused or prevented the destruction they experienced.

Two compelling calls for compassion

Most who reject biblical truth and morality fall in the latter category for two reasons, both of which relate directly to followers of Jesus today.

One: They need our help in understanding spiritual truth.

Scripture teaches: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). This is why non-Christians need Christians to teach and model biblical truth in ways that are accessible and relevant to them.

Much of our Christian vocabulary is foreign to those outside our faith; words like sin and lost feel pejorative to those who have no context for understanding their true meaning. Evangelism feels to them like the unfair imposition of our opinions on them. They view attending our churches in the same way you and I would view attending a Muslim mosque or a Buddhist temple.

They need precisely what you and I needed before others helped us understand and accept the truth of God’s word. They are sincerely lost, but they don’t know they’re lost. They need and deserve someone to show them the path to life in a spirit of compassion and grace.

Two: They are the victims of the true enemy.

Yesterday, I referred to 2 Corinthians 4:4. Here is the full verse: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is why “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

As a result, the first step in influencing the lost is interceding for the lost. It is praying for the Spirit to defeat the work of Satan in their minds and hearts. It is asking God to lead them to himself, to guide and use us to that end, and to protect them from the deceptions and antagonism of our fallen culture.

While some people clearly understand and yet reject biblical truth and are willing accomplices in Satan’s work of deception, the vast majority do not know what they do not know. They do not understand that they are lost and in need of salvation. They do not understand that they are the victims of the enemy of their souls and that they desperately need our intercession and compassion.

A hymn I encourage you to pray

Millions of people in our lost culture are sincerely drinking “water” that leads to death rather than “living water” that leads to life (John 4:14). This is because they need Christians to explain and model biblical truth in relevant and empowering ways while interceding for the lost to hear and respond to the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

If I am holding the only flashlight in a dark room, whose fault is the darkness?

Rather than condemning those who need my witness and intercession, should I not renew my commitment to both?

To have God’s heart for the lost, however, I must first experience God’s heart for myself. I must encounter his loving grace, his transforming mercy, his empowering presence and peace. To that end, I’ll close with a hymn I came across recently that greatly encouraged me. It was written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John and co-leader of the Methodist movement.

Charles wrote the words for more than 6,500 hymns, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” He could make such a profound impact on his culture and on Christian history because Jesus was so real in his heart, a fact he expressed in words I encourage you to pray slowly to God right now:

Jesus, my all in all thou art;
My rest in toil, my ease in pain,
The medicine of my broken heart,
In war my peace, in loss my gain,
My smile beneath the tyrant’s frown,
In shame my glory and my crown:

In want my plentiful supply,
In weakness my almighty pow’r,
In bonds my perfect liberty,
My light in Satan’s darkest hour,
My help and stay whene’er I call,
My life in death, my heav’n, my all. Amen.


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