A Netflix documentary star broke down in court Thursday after a court awarded her a $211 million verdict in her suit against a Florida children’s hospital.
“Take Care of Maya” star Maya Kowalski, currently 17, was 10 years old when she was admitted to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in Oct. 2016 because of “excruciating pain,” according to The Cut.
“The girl’s parents, Beata and Jack Kowalski, had told the hospital that Maya suffered from a neurological disorder called complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. They said that she was acutely sensitive to stimuli of all kinds and that disabling pain radiated through her legs and feet, requiring the use of a wheelchair,” The Cut notes.
“Maya spent 24 hours in the intensive-care unit at All Children’s, screaming and writhing. When a nurse attempted to conduct an ultrasound, her mother insisted that the only way Maya could tolerate the contact was if she received an infusion of ketamine,” The Cut’s reporting continues.
#MayaKowalski weeps in court as the jury’s delivers the verdict in the #TakeCareOfMaya case.#JohnHopkins All Children’s Hospital found #liable on all claims, including false imprisonment and wrongful death awarding the family more than $200M.#CourtTV Is #justice served? ⚖️ pic.twitter.com/XJkXA9qXRG
— Court TV (@CourtTV) November 9, 2023
Thanks to hospital staff, in addition to an investigator, both being surprised by the ketamine request and suspecting that Kowalski’s mother, Beata, suffered from Munchausen by proxy and was abusing her, she was at the time separated from her family by the state. Beata committed suicide months later.
“I’m sorry, but I no longer can take the pain being away from Maya and being treated like a criminal. I cannot watch my daughter suffer in pain and keep getting worse,” she wrote in a Jan. 2017 suicide letter, according to People magazine.
But it gets worse. Following her mother’s suicide, Kowalski was only granted an hour with her father, she later testified in court.
“If I’m being completely honest, it was actually so unbelievably cruel, the amount of time they allocated for me to spend with my family after hearing such awful news,” she reportedly said.
In its defense, All Children’s “called expert witnesses who testified that the Kowalski parents’ behavior raised legitimate concern, including Beata’s request that her daughter be treated with what seemed like a high dose of ketamine,” according to The Cut.
“Dr. Elliot Krane, the chief of pain management at Stanford School of Medicine, told jurors that the ketamine doses previously prescribed by Maya’s doctors were so high they caused her to develop a tolerance to the drug and that the anesthetic had contributed to her weight loss and abdominal pain,” The Cut notes.
As a harmed patient, I am so grateful to Maya Kowalski for having the courage to take this case to trial. A tremendous thank you to Maya for acknowledging those who never get justice. She is an amazing young woman! #TakeCareofMaya pic.twitter.com/iJ2hB7xvPq
— Tessa (@DrTessaT) November 10, 2023
However, in its defense, the hospital also tried to smear Kowalski. For example, the hospital’s defense attorneys reportedly revealed photos of her that they asserted cast doubt on her claims of suffering persistent pain.
“In one image, apparently taken before a homecoming dance, Maya sits in a long red dress beside her boyfriend. In another, dressed as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, she stands between two girls also in Halloween costumes. Both were taken in October 2023,” The Cut notes.
Testifying in her own defense, Kowalski pushed back on the smear by admitting she’d been essentially hiding her pain in the photos.
“I cried for an hour to my dad before that picture was taken because of how bad my leg pain was. I only ended up going because my boyfriend was the one who paid for the ticket, and I felt too bad to say ‘no,’” she said.
Speaking with The Cut, her attorney, Jennifer Anderson, also pushed back on the smear.
“What bugs me is this whole concept that Maya’s not allowed to be a teenager. She can never smile for a photo? As if that somehow proves what — that her mom abused her? It doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
Maya Kowalski after jury finds Johns Hopkins All Childrens liable on all counts with damages over $200 million:#Maya says her mom would have a lot of words tonight and be “overjoyed”. #TakeCareOfMaya Trial. pic.twitter.com/tGSqk5BsFw
— Evyn Moon (@EvynMoon) November 10, 2023
After the case concluded, the jury reportedly took only a day to render a verdict against the hospital.
During a phone call with The Cut, one of All Children’s attorneys said the hospital intends to appeal the ruling “based on clear and prejudicial errors throughout the trial and deliberate conduct by plaintiff’s counsel that misled the jury.”
“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,” the attorney added.
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