FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A wrongful death lawsuit filed against an emergency room doctor elected to the state senate might be nearing an end.
Dr. Tyler Johnson, R-Leo-Cedarville, and his attorney are scheduled to meet with the mother of a 20-year-old woman who died less than an hour after being treated by him for a settlement conference at the Allen County Courthouse on Aug. 5.
Jennifer Becerra, the mother of Esperanza Umana, sued Johnson and his employer, Professional Emergency Physicians, as well as Parkview Health last year claiming they did not care for her daughter properly when she arrived at a local emergency room in 2018.
An attorney for Parkview Health will also be present at the settlement hearing.
Umana presented serious symptoms for pneumonia, asthma and the flu, according to court testimony.
She was possibly septic, a condition that kills 60% of patients, her family’s legal team has argued.
Still, Umana was discharged from the hospital after being seen by Johnson and collapsed in a pharmacy parking lot less than an hour later while she was trying to pick up medication prescribed to her.
She left behind a son who was only months old at the time.
A medical review board consisting of three emergency room doctors reviewed the case and found Johnson and Parkview did not provide proper care – a ruling Becerra’s legal team said in court documents happens less than 20% of the time.
Filed last May, proceedings in the lawsuit had been delayed multiple times and became mired in legal wrangling during recent months.
Becerra’s team claimed attorneys for Johnson and Parkview needlessly stalled for time to find experts who did not exist who would support their assertions that they cared for Umana properly.
“They’re always scrambling but they can’t find an expert in the whole universe,” Terri Kaiser Park, one of Becerra’s attorneys, said during a hearing last month.
With a cap on settlements at $1.6 million in Indiana, Park said during that same hearing that “it’s a mystery” why Johnson and Parkview haven’t settled the case.
Shortly after WANE 15 ran a 15 FINDS OUT story on the lawsuit, Johnson’s attorney filed a motion to seal the case off from public view on the grounds that certain “parties have publicized this lawsuit, needlessly and unfairly litigating this case in the public media,” according to court records.
The Allen Superior Court judge overseeing the case denied that request, but also decided to delay any further proceedings in the case until after mid-June, when Indiana’s legislative session will have ended.
If a settlement is not reached, a hearing where Becerra’s attorneys are set to argue for summary judgment – essentially where they would’ve asked the judge to find in their favor without a jury so as to expedite a settlement – has been set for Aug. 7.