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If a restaurant makes you sick, be sure you know its legal name

Restaurants usually have names that are easy for people to remember, but victims of foodborne illness often find legal names of restaurants can be elusive. Restaurant franchises are often passed from limited partnerships to individuals or corporations and back again.

Take the Pizza Ranch in Lincoln, NE. It was the center a year ago of nine-state E. coli outbreak involving dough used for desserts.

logo-Pizza-RanchBut when a family of a Lincoln girl, one of 13 outbreak victims, went to sue the restaurant, her attorneys apparently missed the mark by not getting the correct legal name of the restaurant on court documents and the lawsuit was dismissed.

It was reminiscent of another Nebraska man’s lawsuit against the Old Country Buffet in Cheyenne, WY, which after winning $11.37 million in compensation for severe injuries in a Salmonella outbreak ended instead with “Buffets Inc.” giving notice the restaurant was one of many it owned and they were in bankruptcy. When the confusion about the name was settled, the monetary award was put on hold for as long as the bankruptcy proceedings are underway.

In the Pizza Ranch case, however, a new lawsuit has been filed against MJ Ranches Management LLC, which owns the franchise for the Lincoln Pizza Ranch and Pizza Blends Inc., which makes dough.

The second lawsuit was filed by Tyler Pannier, father of the 8-year-old girl who became ill Dec. 31 after dining at the Lincoln Pizza Ranch.

She went on to require treatment at Children’s Hospital in Omaha for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threating kidney disease that frequently follows an E. coli infection.

The outbreak, which stretched from December 2015 to February 2016, was linked to two dry dough mixes made by Pizza Blends.

The 190-outlet Pizza Ranch chain is based in Orange City, IA. It has locations in 13 states. Nine of the 13 outbreak victims were linked with Pizza Ranch. The company ceased using the dough in February after its own testing determine the source of the bacteria was an outside supplier.

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