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In 'Take Care of Maya' case, judgment is lowered but motion for retrial is dismissed

The entrance of All Children's hospital.
Julio Ochoa
/
WUSF
Judge Hunter Carroll lowered some of the jury awards to the Kowalski family but dismissed All Children's motion for a retrial.

Judge Hunter Carroll decreased the judgment for Maya Kowalski and her family from Netflix's "Take Care of Maya" documentary nearly $47.5 million, but denied All Children's Hospital's motion for a retrial.

A judge ruled this week that Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital will not get a retrial in a case that accused the health care provider of holding a young girl against her will.

But the judge did decrease the $261 million awarded to the girl and her family by a jury by $47.5 million.

The case gained national attention after Netflix aired a documentary last year called “Take Care of Maya," which shared an emotional story about the care Maya Kowalski received when she visited the hospital in 2016.

Judge Hunter Carroll on Tuesday released an order regarding the hospital's post-trial motions. One asked for a new trial and decreased jury awards and the other asked for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

"There is no doubt that the various monetary awards by the jury are significant," Carroll's order said. "Being large, though, does not necessarily mean they are excessive. In almost all cases here, they are not. Where they are, the Court has remitted the excessive jury award."

The judge decreased the amount the hospital owed by about 20 percent. The largest change lowered the verdict for Maya's father's damages due to her mother's death from $50 million to $24 million.

"We will pursue the appeals process for as long as necessary to reach a final, just conclusion for the physicians, nurses, and staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and all those who are legally and morally obligated to speak up if they suspect child abuse. We are confident in our appeal and look forward to proceeding with it."
Ethen Shapiro, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital attorney

The hospital is still required to pay the family over $213 million.

The judge also denied the hospital's motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

"Despite the picture painted by (Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital’s) motion, this jury did not go off the rails," the order said.

In a statement to WUSF regarding the judge's order, the hospital's attorney Ethen Shapiro said it was a step forward in the appeal, but called the rulings "disappointing" and said they set a "dangerous and unacceptable standard" for victims of child abuse and mandatory reporters.

"Review of the complete facts and the law in this case will vindicate the care provided by the experts at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital," Shapiro said. "We will pursue the appeals process for as long as necessary to reach a final, just conclusion for the physicians, nurses, and staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and all those who are legally and morally obligated to speak up if they suspect child abuse. We are confident in our appeal and look forward to proceeding with it."

A Netflix documentary called “Take Care of Maya" released last year shared an emotional story about the care Maya received when she visited in 2016.

Maya Kowalski was 10 years old when she was rushed into the All Children's emergency room for severe pain. The symptoms were something her doctors had already diagnosed as complex regional pain disorder — an illness causing intermittent chronic pain that can be disabling.

But for three months the hospital kept Maya separated from her family, claiming medical abuse. Her mother, Beata Kowalski, died by suicide. She believed that was the only way to get her daughter out of the hospital.

The family took the hospital to court.

After an eight-week trial in Venice, a jury found the hospital liable for its mistreatment of Maya — finding at least three separate occasions where she was falsely imprisoned and at least two occasions of battery.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.