A Florida jury sided with the Kowalski family — featured in the Netflix documentary “Take Care of Maya” — in their civil case against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
The jury decided that the St. Petersburg-based hospital was liable for false imprisonment and battery of Maya Kowalski, now 17, when she was 10 years old, and played a role in her mother’s suicide, among other claims.
The Kowalski family was awarded approximately $211 million in compensatory damages, and another $50 million in punitive damages in a separate jury deliberation late Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Maya had already been diagnosed and treated for complex regional pain syndrome before her family brought her to All Children’s Hospital some 7 years ago. However, doctors there were “skeptical of the diagnosis and, instead, called the state abuse hotline to report Maya’s mother, Beata Kowalski, for suspected medical child abuse,” according to the Times.
Following a child protection investigation, Maya was removed from her family and kept at the hospital. Ultimately, Beata took her own life after being separated from her daughter for 3 months.
Charges brought by the Kowalski family against the hospital included false imprisonment, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and medical negligence towards Maya and Beata, contributing to the latter’s suicide.
As the verdict came in on Thursday, Maya, her brother, Kyle, and father, Jack, broke down in tears and embraced each other, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
In public remarks following the verdict, Maya said, “For the first time I feel like I got justice, and to a lot of people that’s unfortunately not something they can feel in this situation, and I’m just blessed that I could feel that for myself, for others, and for my mom,” the Herald-Tribune reported.
All Children’s Hospital’s defense counsel Howard Hunter, JD, of Hill Ward Henderson, told MedPage Today in an email, “We thank the jury for their time and attention during this trial and intend to pursue an appeal based on clear and prejudicial errors throughout the trial and deliberate conduct by plaintiff’s counsel that misled the jury.”
“The evidence clearly showed that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital followed Florida’s mandatory reporting law in reporting suspected child abuse and, when those suspicions were confirmed by the district court, fully complied with Department of Children and Families and court orders,” Hunter said. “We are determined to defend the vitally important obligation of mandatory reporters to report suspected child abuse and protect the smallest and most vulnerable among us.”
“The facts and the law remain on our side, and we will continue to defend the lifesaving and compassionate care provided to Maya Kowalski by the physicians, nurses, and staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the responsibility of all mandatory reporters in Florida to speak up if they suspect child abuse,” he added.