FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – An emergency room doctor elected as a state senator now wants Allen Superior Court records and documents in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit filed against him sealed from public view.
An attorney for Dr. Tyler Johnson (R-Leo), filed a motion to exclude the court filings from the public last week.
Johnson – as well as Parkview Health and Professional Emergency Physicians – is being sued by a woman whose 20-year-old daughter died less than an hour after being seen by Johnson and discharged from a local emergency room.
The petition to “prohibit public access to court records” was submitted April 21 by Benjamin D. Ice, a local attorney with Barrett Law working for Johnson.
Another motion filed on behalf of Johnson wants proceedings against him to stop retroactively and any further legal activity suspended because of legislative privileges afforded him as a state senator.
Johnson was elected to serve Indiana’s District 14, which includes parts of Fort Wayne, New Haven, Leo-Cedarville and Butler, in the last election.
The lawsuit has been mired in multiple delays, always at the behest of Johnson and the other defendants, but an Allen County Superior Court judge overseeing the case is holding firm that May 19 will be the final court date for a summary judgment hearing.
Essentially, summary judgement means attorneys for the woman suing Johnson are asking the judge to rule in her favor without a trial.
The plaintiff, Jennifer Becerra, now has until May 4 to respond to Johnson’s motion to seal records. Becerra’s attorney, Tom Manges, said the response will likely be filed before that.
WANE 15 interviewed Manges on Tuesday, getting his reaction to new developments in the case.
Becerra’s daughter, Esperanza Umana, visited the Parkview Regional Medical Center emergency room on Jan. 22, 2018 and was treated by Johnson, a respiratory therapist and a nurse, according to court documents.
Less than an hour after she left the emergency room, Umana, who was ill with serious symptoms for pneumonia, asthma, the flu and possibly sepsis, died as she waited to fill a prescription at a local pharmacy, according to the lawsuit.
Four years after she died, the lawsuit was filed. Two months later, a medical review board of three medical doctors sided with Becerra – a rarity in and of itself, according to attorneys working with Becerra.
What was even rarer was that no settlement offer came after the unanimous decision of the medical review board, with Becerra’s attorneys arguing in court documents that Johnson and the other defendants needed “their feet held to the fire so the case gets settled.”
Judge Andrew Williams agreed to give Johnson and his attorneys four extensions, but on March 28, he set May 19 as the final court date if the case isn’t settled on April 28 in mediation.
On Friday, while Williams gave Becerra and her attorneys time to respond to the motion to seal records, he also issued a warning if they did not respond at all.
“If no response is filed, the motions may be granted,” Williams wrote in a court order.
WANE 15 reached out to Johnson’s attorney but has not heard back.