The family of Maya Kowalski, the 17-year-old subject of Netflix’s “Take Care of Maya,” has won more than $200 million against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital’s botched care and forced isolation of Maya led her mother to commit suicide.
The Netflix documentary focuses on Maya and her family’s fight to get her released after the hospital acquired a state order mandating that she be removed from their custody.
Maya’s mother, Beata Kowalski, ultimately took her own life after being prevented from seeing her daughter for months.
A jury in Sarasota County, Florida, ruled that the hospital was liable for false imprisonment, battery, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Maya Kowalski. They also found the hospital liable for false billing against her father, Jack Kowalski, and for inflicting emotional distress on and the wrongful death of her mother. The family was awarded $211 million in damages, with further punitive damages yet to be assessed against JCACH for false imprisonment and battery.
Maya Kowalski was taken to the hospital in 2016 at the age of 10 for symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome.
Hospital staff suspected that her mother was exaggerating the symptoms and demanding high doses of ketamine and sedatives as part of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, according to the Daily Mail. The syndrome involves a caregiver gaining attention by seeking medical help for exaggerated or made-up symptoms of a child.
JCACH reported Maya Kowalski to the state of Florida, claiming proper adherence to mandatory reporting guidelines, and then complied with a Florida state order removing her from parental care and keeping her at the hospital without contact from her family for three months.
Dr. Pradeep Chopra, who provided testimony in the case, argued that JCACH staff had misdiagnosed Maya Kowalski’s pain condition as a psychological issue, leading them to treat her wrongly by denying her doses of ketamine consistent with her previous treatment, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
While the family successfully argued to the jury that the hospital’s confinement order led to the suicide, the hospital is disputing the jury ruling and plans to appeal, claiming that its actions were consistent with its legal responsibility as a mandatory reporter.
Attorney Howard Hunter, representing JCACH, told the Daily Mail that they “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.”
Greg Anderson, the lead counsel for the family, said in his closing statement that the hospital’s defense was “revisionist history.”
“What was the purpose of all this other than arrogance and the belief they could get away with it?” Mr. Anderson said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.