Jurors in the trial between Netflix teen Maya Kowalski and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital have ruled in favor of Maya, finding the hospital guilty of allegations including false imprisonment. Kowalski broke down in tears as the verdict was read, with over $200 million in damages awarded to her which she will receive when she reaches 18 years old. The jury found that mistakes made by the hospital caused Kowalski’s mother to kill herself, in a ruling that elicited a heartbreaking reaction from the courtroom.
The issue had been central to the trial, with Maya, her father Jack, and brother Kyle suing JHACH in St Petersburg, Florida alleging that accusations of child abuse against Maya’s mother, Beata, led to her taking her own life in 2017. The trio were emotional as their attorney and the defense presented closing arguments on Tuesday with both sides agreeing it was important for ‘closure.’ Maya, 17, was just 10 years old when she was removed by the state after doctors at the hospital accused her parents of faking symptoms for her rare condition – complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
During her three-month hospital stay, Beata was forbidden from seeing her. The family argues that the grief stricken mom fell into a depression and ultimately killed herself but the Florida medical facility has vehemently denied these allegations and others set against them. The tragedy was later detailed in the Netflix documentary ‘Taking Care of Maya. In its ruling on Thursday, the hospital was found liable for false imprisonment of Maya; battery of Maya; fraudulent billing of her father Jack; inflicting emotional distress on Beata; wrongful death claim for the estate of Beata; and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Maya.’What was Maya Kowalski and her family suing Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for? Maya Kowalski and her family launched a $220 million lawsuit in October 2018 suing the Florida medical facility, Maya’s social worker Cathi Bedy, and Dr. Sally Smith along with her employer, Suncoast Center.
In December 2021, the family settled with Smith and Suncoast for the sum of $2.5 million and the Kowalski family dropped its case against Bedy shortly before the trial began. It remains unclear whether a settlement was brokered. In 2016, a judge ordered Maya to be sheltered at the medical facility under state custody while allegations of child abuse raised against her parents were being investigated. At the time, hospital staff believed Beata had been suffering from Munchausen-by-proxy or medical child abuse. Munchausen-by-proxy is a mental illness and a form of child abuse in which the caretaker of a child, most often a mother, either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick.
For eight weeks 12 jurors heard from the Kowalski family, hospital staff, and experts in the trial. Six jurors deliberated the case finding in favor of Kowalski. The Kowalski family claimed the hospital medically kidnapped Maya and pointed to examples of battery including ‘stripping her down’ to a sports bra and shorts to take pictures of lesions, as well as being ‘cuddled, kissed and held’ without the permission of her parents while in their care. The hospital was accused of false imprisonment, battery, medical negligence, fraudulent billing, survivor claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Estate of Beata Kowalski), wrongful death claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress causing death, and Maya’s claim for infliction of emotional distress.
After jury instructions were read, one juror was dismissed for medical reasons after a defense request to have the juror reassigned as an alternate was dismissed. Why was Maya Kowalski in Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital? Maya was taken to JHACH in October 2016, when she experienced a flare up of her CRPS, a disease that was diagnosed by a doctor that was not affiliated with the Florida institute. Maya took the stand telling jurors that her condition left her in excruciating pain often screaming and unable to walk at times. She said she received ketamine to treat the pain and even underwent a ketamine coma in Mexico after the diagnosis and prior to her arrival at JHACH. At the time, she claimed the ketamine treatment worked and that she had seen a dramatic improvement until the 2016 flare up or the rare condition.
Maya was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome when she was nine years old and prescribed ketamine to help dull her pain. Multiple witnesses, including health care professionals at JHACH maintained during the trial that Beata was exhibiting signs of Munchausen by proxy and that Maya’s perceived CRPS symptoms were being driven by her mother. Through the trial, the defense accused Beata of giving her daughter unsafe dosages of ketamine and shared emails that Beata wrote to herself from Maya’s perspective in 2015 in an effort to prove their argument. ‘I have a very high tolerance for drugs, if I was a horse I would be comatose (sic) or dead already,’ Beata wrote in one email from Maya’s perspective that was presented before the court. ‘But things are totally different when it comes to a girl with RSD, my metabolism is super fast.
‘My mommy says I am not a cheep date and my daddy’s response was that he feels deeply sorry for the ‘lucky man’ that will marry me one day :).’ Beata crafted the emails in November 2015, when she and her husband, Jack Kowalski, traveled to Mexico with Maya to treat her pain with a ketamine-induced comas. Both parents claimed that the treatment worked, until Maya experienced a flare-up in 2016, at which point they admitted her to JHACH. In another email detailing Maya’s debilitating pain waking from a coma, Beata wrote: ‘I literarily wanted to die again, I felt awful. I really didn’t think I was going to make it through this day.’ Beata documented Maya’s ketamine comas in her emails which the defense argued discredits the plaintiffs’ arguments that the treatments were safe and effective. Maya’s father, Jack, addressed Beata’s emails in court last week saying he believes they were an attempt by Beata to journal Maya’s experience. ‘After seeing the emails, I realized this is probably why she was doing it,’ he said.
‘I’m from a family of eight children my mom made a baby book for all of us, and in the baby books, it starts out, ‘I got my first haircut’ or ‘I crawled on such-and-such date.’ When Beata and I got married, she had seen my baby book and she thought that was an awesome idea. In his testimony Jack explained that Beata had created baby books with similar first-person narratives for Maya and their son Kyle. Its his belief the that the emails were a similar attempt at documenting memories in the first person for Maya to look back on as she journeyed to better health. ‘She’s talking for the child and that’s how my mom did it as well,’ Jack explained. Why did hospital staff raise concerns of child abuse? The hospital’s defense argued the trial represents the responsibility hospital staff have to report suspected child abuse to authorities.
Maya was removed from her parents’ care after hospital staff became suspicious of the dosage of ketamine her mother insisted on treating her with for the excruciating chronic pain. Florida ‘s Department of Children and Families and a state judge supported hospital staff’s suspicions of ‘child medical abuse’ and placed Maya under Florida’s Department of Children and Families custody and she was housed at the center. The hospital’s defense centered on staff as mandatory reporters who are required by state law to call the abuse hotline if they have ‘reasonable cause.’ Shapiro previously stated that the decision to remove Maya was made by the child welfare system rather than the medical facility. The hospital released a statement to DailyMail.com which read: ‘Our priority at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is always the safety and privacy of our patients and their families. ‘Therefore, we follow strict federal privacy laws that limit the amount of information we can release regarding any particular case.
‘Our first responsibility is always to the child brought to us for care. Our staff are required by law to notify Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) if they suspect abuse or neglect. ‘It is DCF and a judge – not Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital – that investigates the situation and makes the ultimate decision about what course of action is in the best interest of the child. ‘We are determined to prevent any chilling effect on the obligation to report suspected child abuse in order to protect the most vulnerable among us.’ What were the closing statements from the close to two month trial? The Kowalski family alleged that the power of the large hospital system combined with the power of the state made them helpless. They further claim that being separated caused severe emotional distress for both Maya and her mother.
The lawsuit also details the Kowalski’s claim that the hospital billed their insurance company thousands of dollars for CRPS treatments despite the staff’s claims that Maya did not suffer from it. In closing statements on Tuesday Greg Anderson, who represents the family, made a fiery end rebuttal blasting the hospital as ‘dysfunctional.’ ‘This is Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, this is who they really are,’ Anderson said to the court. ‘It’s a place that retaliates against its own employees for bringing things out that are negative and retaliates against anyone, any parent, who decides they want to do something different. ‘This case is about an organization that is so screwed up that it actually thinks it’s a good idea to force parents to accept their way of doing things and if the parents don’t they have to find different ways to punish them. Anderson claimed that there needs to be a ‘captain of the ship, and there never was.’ ‘It was totally dysfunctional the way this hospital operated,’ he said.
‘No one was checking no one was making sure to see how this child was being taken care of, no one was looking to see how their own employees were behaving and it wasn’t just one.’ Ethen Shapiro, an attorney for the hospital, tore to shreds the seven allegations against the medical facility pleading to the jury to listen to facts and not to hand down a verdict based on sympathy. ‘The most unfortunate parts of this case is the caption, Kowalski’s versus All Children’s, we were never against the Kowalski family,’ Shapiro said. ‘The reason why All Children’s did what it did, the reason why All Children’s tried to comfort Maya, the reason why All Children’s tried to get her on a safe medical path is because the loving and caring providers and my client’s hospital believed in a better future for her.
‘If they could get her off the unnecessary drugs given at dangerous levels. Period. End of story. Shapiro stressed to jurors that if there was any cause for punitive damages to be paid to the Kowalski family to do so, but vehemently denied the allegations against his client. ‘There’s nothing outrageous that the hospital ever did, there’s no reason to be considering punitive damages, your work can end with your deliberations. ‘What we need in this courtroom is closure for everybody.’ According to the complaint from Pinellas County Beata took her own life because of the turmoil that the hospital created. ‘Defendants imprisoned Maya at [Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg] with no legal justification,’ the lawsuit states. Throughout the trial the hospital vehemently denied the allegations and reiterated this defense in closing statements.
‘The evidence that we’ve been able to put on through our defense case has shown that Maya came to us in a horrible condition on a number of dangerous and unnecessary drugs,’ Shapiro, attorney for the hospital said during the trial. ‘We were able to wean her off those drugs and get her to a place where she can be like you see her today, walking in and out of court, going to homecoming and living a more normal teenage life.’ Anderson rebuffed the defense’s narrative that Maya is doing much better after they showed pictures of her in court enjoying similar luxuries as a ‘normal teen’ including going out on Halloween and her homecoming dance. ‘There’s a base level of pain, but when you’re in that much pain at different times it becomes, it’s not as noticeable as a normal person, really,’ Anderson said. ‘You develop a high tolerance for it. CRPS patients always have a little bit of pain, but it does come and go, and this is one of the elusive and frankly frustrating things about the disease.’
Anderson argued that out of the five depositions made by Maya the defense had been picking snippets to portray Maya’s life after hospitalization as ‘normal.’ He pointed out that Maya ‘almost died after one relapse’ and she was sent to Arnold Palmer’s Children’s Hospital in Orlando where she was given a feeding tube because of the significant weight loss she experienced. ‘The fact that they stood up for their rights to treat their own child with the best knowledge they could, with every bit of information they could, and they made the right choices,’ Anderson said. ‘So, the things that happened to them at Johns Hopkins are beyond belief, absolutely beyond belief, but we’ve proved them over and over again.’ Read the full story:https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12725249/Netflix-Maya-Kowalski-verdict.html?ito=msngallery
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Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk