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Minnesota Family Sues After Son's Allergic Death

A Minnesota family has filed a lawsuit against a restaurant for what they call a fatal mistake.

They say they were told that the establishment's pancakes were dairy-free.

Their son had a severe dairy allergy and died after a meal.

Scott Johnson was the second of four kids in a family that always looked out for him.

Jaris Johnson/Sister: "Every time I would pick something up, when I was shopping with my parents, I'd look at the label and be like, can Scott have this?"

Scott suffered from a severe dairy allergy since birth.

Cindy Johnson/Mother: "Things that you wouldn't even imagine have dairy in them."

He'd had scares before. Small traces of dairy would be enough to send him to the emergency room.

That's why his family says eating at a restaurant became rare and would always be done with caution.

Steve Johnson/Father: "If it wasn't right, we didn't eat until his was right."

But on a weekday morning last June, the girls wanted to treat their mom and brother to breakfast at Bemidji's Minnesota Nice Cafe.

Cindy Johnson/Mother: "We didn't have to wait for a table. They knew us by name."

The family's lawsuit explains, what they say, happened next.

Cindy asked the server if the restaurant gluten free pancakes were also dairy free.

The server said, after checking with the cook, they were.

Cindy then told the server the grill would have to be cleaned before her son's pancakes were made.

His mom and sisters then watched Scott eat two pancakes, thinking they were fine.

Cindy Johnson/Mother: "He had just finished and he said we have to go now."

Scott forgot to bring his Epipen and nebulizer to the restaurant, the tools he'd used before to open his lungs and help him through an allergic reaction.

When the Johnson's got home, it became clear they weren't working.

Cindy called 911.

Steve Johnson/Father: "I was eighteen miles off the highway when I got the call."

On a road construction job, two hours away, Steve got word that his son would be airlifted to Fargo.

Steve Johnson/Father: "Hardest thing for me was, I didn't even get to talk to him."

Doctors told his parents their son had suffered such a severe anaphylactic reaction, his heart had failed.

Scott died three days later.

Steve Johnson/Father: "Sixteen years, that's too short."

Cindy Johnson/Mother: "I miss him just as much today, as the day after."

The Johnson's are sharing their story with the hope it will stop something like this from happening again.

Steve Johnson/Father: "Ask questions. If you're not sure, don't do it."

And help people realize just how serious allergies can be.

Cindy Johnson/Mother: "Just one mistake can take someone's life."

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