Tears flowed freely in a tense St. Petersburg courtroom as a jury handed down a $220 million verdict against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital on Thursday. 17-year-old Maya Kowalski gripped a cross and sobbed heavily as the verdict was read, finally receiving justice after a long and emotional trial.
Kowalski’s case was featured in the recent Netflix documentary “Take Care of Maya,” which chronicled her battle against a rare and debilitating neurological disorder. In 2015, Kowalski’s mother Beata admitted her to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, seeking help for her chronic pain condition. However, hospital staff were skeptical of Beata’s claims and contacted child welfare authorities, who then removed Maya from her parents’ care and made her an involuntary medical ward of the state.
The Kowalski family sued the hospital for $220 million, claiming that they had wrongfully committed Maya and cruelly separated her from her mother. Maya’s mother, Beata, had tragically taken her own life while being investigated for child abuse, leaving Maya alone to fight her debilitating illness and the allegations against her mother.
Maya testified at trial that she still suffers from the effects of complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological condition that causes intense, widespread pain and nervous system dysfunction. She admitted that she had sought unconventional treatments, such as ketamine therapy, in Mexico before coming to the hospital.
A complete release of emotions from the Kowalski family. This is years of waiting for justice in their case. Maya clutched her mother’s rosary and held onto her mother’s ring as the verdict was read @fox13news #takecareofmayatrial pic.twitter.com/6TkQWGcj3o
— Kim Kuizon FOX 13 (@kkuizon) November 9, 2023
The defense argued that the hospital’s drastic measures were necessary to protect Maya from her mother, whom they believed was suffering from Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. However, Kowalski’s lawyers argued that Beata was simply trying to find relief for her daughter’s pain and that the hospital acted in an unfeeling and overreaching manner by separating the young girl from her mother.
Despite the defense’s attempts to discredit Maya’s claims of ongoing suffering, the jury found the hospital guilty of false imprisonment, malpractice, and infliction of emotional distress. The verdict holds Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital accountable for its actions and is expected to result in tens of millions of dollars in penalties.
The hospital’s attorneys have already announced their intention to appeal the verdict, denouncing the court for “clear and prejudicial errors.” In a statement, lawyer Howard Hunter defended the hospital’s actions, saying that they had followed Florida’s mandatory reporting law and fully complied with Department of Children and Families (DCF) and court orders.
However, for Maya Kowalski, the verdict is a monumental victory in her ongoing battle for justice. Her lawyers stated that she hopes the verdict will bring about positive change in the way hospitals and authorities handle cases involving potential child abuse.
As Kowalski clutched a cross and emotionally thanked the jurors after the verdict was read, it was clear that this case had left its mark on all who were involved. The painful and tragic events that took place at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital will forever be remembered as a reminder of the necessity for compassion and care in the treatment of vulnerable patients.