What we know about Eddie Bernice Johnson’s death lawsuit – The Dallas Morning News

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The family of former Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson intends to sue Baylor Scott & White Health over alleged negligent care at the hospital system’s rehabilitation center that the family says led to her death.

Johnson, a trailblazing North Texas Democrat who served 15 terms in Congress, died on Dec. 31. She was 89.

Here’s what we know so far about her care in the months leading to her death and the lawsuit her family plans to file.


Alleged negligence after surgery

Johnson, lovingly known as EBJ, underwent extensive back surgery in September to correct degenerative conditions that would have made the long-time congresswoman unable to walk, according to the family’s lawyer, Les Weisbrod. Kirk Johnson, Eddie Bernice Johnson’s son, visited his mother on Sept. 21 at the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation where he found her “lying in her own feces and urine.”

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Kirk Johnson could not find any nurses and went to the administrator’s first-floor office seeking help. CEO David Smith followed Kirk Johnson to his mother’s room, where staff were cleaning up the feces.

Smith allegedly remarked, “This shouldn’t have happened,” according to the news release.


Johnson’s orthopedic surgeon documented the incident in Johnson’s medical records and wrote that, “Three days later she began having copious purulent drainage,” from an incision. Tests from Johnson’s wound found organisms related to feces, the release said.

Johnson underwent another surgery to repair the infected wound and was moved to a nursing facility in mid-October, then to her home in mid-December with hospice care.

According to a copy of her death certificate provided by Weisbrod, Johnson died from a bone infection in her lumbar spine.


Intent to sue

Weisbrod sent a letter Thursday to Baylor Scott & White Health and the rehab center informing them of the allegations. It serves as a mandatory notice given before a formal lawsuit is filed. Weisbrod, an experienced medical malpractice litigator, said he has been in touch with the hospital system’s attorneys and is hopeful a resolution may be reached before the end of the 60-day window.

“Congresswoman Johnson was a longtime friend and champion in the communities we serve — she is an inspiration to all,” Baylor Scott & White Health said in a statement. “We are committed to working directly with the Congresswoman’s family members and their counsel. Out of respect for patient privacy, we must limit our comments.”

Johnson’s record as a health care provider

Before Johnson was known as a political juggernaut, she paved the way for Black women in health care.

Born in segregated Waco, Johnson left Texas in the early 1950s to get a nursing certificate at St. Mary’s College in Indiana. She later earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University and a master’s degree from Southern Methodist University.

Hired sight unseen at Dallas’ VA hospital, Johnson said she experienced overt racism at her job that nearly led her to quit. But she stayed, eventually becoming the first African American chief psychiatric nurse at the hospital.


She was the first registered nurse elected to Congress and the first Black woman to chair the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Her status as a nurse cemented her expertise on issues including health care and scientific research.

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