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Jury finds hospital liable in $220 million 'Take Care of Maya' case

A jury has awarded the family of Maya Kowalski, who is at the center of Netflix's "Take Care of Maya," millions of dollars in damages.
Jury finds hospital liable in $220 million 'Take Care of Maya' case
Posted at 3:17 PM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 17:17:35-05

After deliberating for just over 16 hours over three days, a Florida jury has come to the conclusion that a hospital's actions led to a mother's suicide.

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital has been found liable for all civil claims in the "Take Care of Maya" trial, and the jury preliminarily awarded the Kowalski family $211,451,174.

JHACH was found liable for the following:

- False imprisonment of Maya Kowalski

- Battery of Maya Kowalski

- Fraudulent billing of Jack Kowalski

- Inflicting emotional distress on Beata Kowalski

- Wrongful death claim for the estate of Beata Kowalski

- Intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Maya Kowalski

Maya Kowalski, whose story has been viewed by millions in the Netflix documentary, "Take Care of Maya," took the stand briefly on Tuesday outside the jury's presence to authenticate a letter she wrote to her family while she was separated from them.

Jack Kowalski, on behalf of his children Maya and Kyle and the estate of his late wife Beata, filed the lawsuit against Johns Hopkins All Children's Medical Center, which treated his children beginning in 2015. Kowalski said the hospital's treatment and accusations of child abuse against Beata led her to take her own life in Jan. 2017.

Opening statements in the case began on Sept. 21. The prosecution accused the hospital of medical malpractice, battery, Maya's false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and alleged fraud. The attorney representing the hospital said in his opening statement that actions taken by John Hopkins were reasonable and in the best interest of the patient.

While the lawsuit was initially filed against multiple people, an eighth amended complaint filed on Jan. 24, 2023, listed only the hospital and Catherine Bedy, a social worker, as defendants. A filing on Monday, after jury selection had already started, removed Bedy as a defendant.

According to the lawsuit, Maya was initially admitted to JHACH in July 2015 for a severe asthma attack and began experiencing severe pain and significant weakness. 

In Sept. 2015, Maya was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, a neuropathic disease "generally caused by damage to or malfunction of the central nervous system," according to the suit. To treat the diagnosis, Maya was given ketamine infusion treatments, which caused her symptoms to steadily improve.

In Oct. 2016, Maya began to experience abdominal pain and vomiting. She was taken back to All Children's Medical Center for treatment. Beata was with her daughter and asked for Maya to be given the appropriate dosages of pain medications she needed.

"Upon information and belief, certain JHACH personnel, despite their unfamiliarity with treating CRPS and despite Dr. Hanna's corroboration of Beata and Jack's relaying of the recommended CRPS treatments, became offended and defensive by the suggestions given by the mother (a registered IV nurse) and father (a retired Chicago firefighter)," the suit states. "Almost immediately, Defendants, and specifically Debra Hansen, a social worker employed by JHACH, reported Beata to the DCF Child Abuse Hotline, claiming that Beata was interfering with Maya's treatment and there was a disagreement about dosages of ketamine."

SEE MORE: FDA warns of risks involved with compounded ketamine products

According to the lawsuit, despite DCF finding valid prescriptions for the dosages of ketamine on file and JHACH being told to close the investigation, the hospital then tried to fight Jack and Beata when they tried to remove Maya from the hospital. At that point, the suit alleges, the hospital brought in Dr. Sally Smith, who was introduced as a pediatrician but was, in fact, the hospital's director of child abuse and was "improperly granted … access to Maya's medical record in order to build a case of child abuse against the family."

"Upon information and belief, Dr. Smith directly and/or indirectly issued orders to JHACH physicians and staff, such as isolating Maya, covertly surveilling Maya by video for a period of approximately 48 hours, ordering a regime of physical therapy, issuing directions to wean Maya off pain medications, and placing restrictions on the Kowalskis' visitation rights within JHACH," per the suit.

The lawsuit accused the hospital of working with its staff to "imprison" Maya without legal justification and barring her family from visiting. 

"The resulting prolonged separation from their suffering daughter manifested in Beata's depression, fatigue, and overwhelming sense of hopelessness," it says. "Despite specific and documented warning signs, JHACH and Dr. Smith continued a campaign of degradation and threats towards the Kowalskis, and specifically, Beata."

A hospital spokesperson gave the following statement to Court TV:

"Our priority at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital is always the safety and privacy of our patients and their families, and we are vigorously defending against the false allegations made in the suit. Our first responsibility is always to the child brought to us for care, and we stand behind our staff's compassionate 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 look forward to demonstrating to the Court and jury that all of the appropriate and legally required processes were followed by our staff."


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