I contracted food poisoning from a fastfood restaurant and need to take them to small claims. This is a national chain and the individual restaurant is owned by XYZ Corp. I have their agent for service of process from the state website. How do I list the defendant? Is it XYZ Corp. or Fast Food Restaurant? I am confused because the corporation did not make me sick, but they are the legal owners of the restaurant that did.


Ordinarily, shareholders are not personally responsible for corporate liabilities. However, if a corporation has been operated as the “alter ego” of its shareholders, the corporation’s creditors—including tort claimants—may be permitted to “pierce the corporate veil“ and enforce their claims directly against the shareholders. Similarly, an action may lie on an “alter ego” theory against the corporate parent of a wrongdoing subsidiary. [Mesler v. Bragg Management Co. (1985) 39 C3d 290, 300, 216 CR 443, 448; see Laird v. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. (1998) 68 CA4th 727, 737, 742, 80 CR2d 454, 460, 4630 [2:2015]. In assessing punitive damages against a subsidiary or other member of an affiliated group of corporations, it is wrong to take into account the wealth of the parent or the rest of the affiliated group. Absent proof of an alter ego theory of liability (¶ 2:2015 ff.), the punitive damages award must exclusively reflect the financial condition of the defendant corporate entity. [Tomaselli v. Transamerica Ins. Co. (1994) 25 CA4th 1269, 1282–1286, 31 CR2d 433, 441–443]. It would be best to seek personal assistance from a lawyer in filing your personal injury claim.

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