Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cracker Barrell to get ass sued

Mills of the gods

As I often point out in these pages, other lawyers always seem to get cases which are more fun than mine. The latests litigation I may have missed out on(I say may, because no suit has been filed yet) involves the mother of one of my comedic heros Chris Rock. It seems that mom, Rose Rock (what a great name) is going to sue the restaraunt chain Cracker Barrel for racial discrimination. Cracker Barrel has had trouble like this before,there was a federal inquiry over there alleged refusal to serve black patrons, discriminating against minority workers and the firing of gay employees.

The situation, as described by the report I read, sounds like a million dollar case if I ever heard one. Rose and her daughter stopped in at a Cracker Barrel in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. Murell's Inlet may or may not be named after former Astro outfielder Ivan"the terrible" Murrell, the single worst pinch hitter in Astros history, but I digress. Mrs and Ms. Rock were seated at the Cracker Barrel and then ignored for what they claim was half an hour. When Rose called over the manager and asked about the delay, she was told that their meals would be free. The reports I have read do not indicate whether the Rocks partook (is that a word ?) of the free meal, but based on what Roase said, I doubt it. "Neither of us wanted to eat."said Rose. Rose says that she and her daughter were the only people of African American descent in the restaraunt at the time.

Now litigation like this is pretty expensive as Cracker Barrel, despite their rube name is undoubtdly defended by some pretty high priced lawyers, lawyers that have been down this road with Cracker Barrel in the past. So to allay the disadvantage that Mrs Rose, the mother of a multi-millionaire, will suffer in the suit, the Rev. Al Sharpton is joining Rose in Charleston today to announce that "Sharpton's Action Committee" will finance the lawsuit. Well now we're getting somewhere. I like Al. He was my favorite Democratic Presidential candidate back in '04. He is not afraid to speak his mind and often does so in a humorous fashion. Rose could not be in better hands to guide her through the mine fields of the South Carolina Federal District Court.

Now every lawsuit has two sides to the story (they teach you that in law school). Cracker Barrel's defense may be that the Rocks were there during rush hour for the place and that some poor waitress got behind and just forgot them. Indeed, I have been in this situation dozens of times over my lifetime. I usually approach a waitress or the manager after about 15 minutes, or 10, depending on how hungry I am and announce that no one is waiting on me.In all the years I have been doing this, no one ever gave me my lunch for free. Maybe Cracker Barrel's defense will be that they screwed up and offered what they thought was just compensation.

Now Rose's side of the story is different. She will say that they sat in the place half an hour, the only black people there, and watched while people seated after them got waited on and served. Then, when they finally talked to the manager about it, he did not call the waitress over to get an explanation, but just offereed them a free meal to get her off their back.Oh yeah, she will also point out that Cracker Barrel has had this type of thing happen in the past, that the restaraunt is named after "Crackers" and that the violation took place in South Carolian, home of the late racist Senator Strom Thurmond and , perhaps not so coincidentally, the first state to secede from the Union after Lincoln was elected.

Both sides would be correct on all counts. Cracker Barrel's case is not being helped by the foot dragging of the South Carolian Human Affairs Commission in handling her complaint. It was filed on August 7. Jesse Washington, the head of the commissiom said that "We get thousands of charges coming through here in the course of a year" and that the time line for this case is not out of the ordinary. Boy, if Rose is mad about waiting 60 days for the Commission to do something, just wait until she gets to experience the speed and efficency of the Court system.

Sharpton, for his part, says that he is getting reports from "all over the country" about Cracker Barrel. He does not elaborate on the reports, perhaps some are about their chicken fried steak. I was shocked to learn that Cracker Barrel has over 500 restaraunts in 41 states. That is an impressive number considering that they don't serve racial minorities or gays. That cuts out about a third of the population of the country so far. The only way they can succede is if every white guy in the country eats there once a week or so.

I myself have never been to a Cracker Barrel. I tried on one occasion to pull into one when I was very hungry and on a driving trip, but my wife refuesed to allow it. She told me, and this is the honest to God truth, "do you really think that service would be any good in a place called Cracker Barrel ? " she knew what she was talking about. Al, give me a call, I can take on the case.


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