We trust doctors to make good decisions for us when it comes to injuries and illnesses. In most cases, doctors are knowledgeable and help us with our ailments. But they do not always know best.
A Florida case proves this point. A Florida civil court recently awarded Maya Kowalski and her family more than $211 million in compensatory damages as well as another $50 million in punitive damages. A jury found Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital guilty of multiple criminal offenses, including medical malpractice, wrongful death, battery, false imprisonment, fraudulent billing, and emotional distress.
The main character in this case, 17-year-old Maya Kowalski, cried as the verdict was read in the Sarasota County court. Her father and brother also broke down in tears.
A documentary about this case — “Take Care of Maya” — was released over the summer on Netflix, garnering nationwide attention. The story of the Kowalskis began in October 2016 when Maya was admitted to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in pain. She has already received a diagnosis from her doctor: complex regional pain syndrome, a rare pain disorder.
The hospital staff was wary of the situation, though, because Maya’s mother insisted that Maya be treated with ketamine. The staff convinced a doctor to accuse the mother of child abuse.
Maya was placed in the custody of the state of Florida and kept at the hospital against her will. She was able to talk to her mother, but calls were monitored. Maya’s mother was frustrated by the staff refusing to believe her daughter’s diagnosis. She took her life in January 2017 at the age of 43.
After her mother’s death, Maya was released into her father’s custody. In 2018, her father filed a lawsuit against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, accusing the facility of medical negligence, wrongful death, battery, false imprisonment, battery, emotional distress, and fraudulent billing.
Jury selection began in September, with the trial lasting eight weeks. The hospital was found guilty on all claims brought against it. The hospital was considered liable for falsely imprisoning Maya as well as causing Maya’s mother undue emotional distress in the months before her death. Maya was awarded damages for battery for being held down and forced to take pictures in her underwear against her will. She was also awarded damages for being put in a room with video surveillance against her will for 48 hours. During that time, she was kissed, hugged, and forced to sit on a social worker’s lap against her will.
The family will receive $211,451,174 in compensatory damages. The jury decided on an additional $50 million in punitive damages for false imprisonment and false imprisonment with battery. In total, the Kowalski family was awarded more than $261 million.
The hospital is not happy with the outcome and stated it would appeal the ruling based on “clear and prejudicial errors throughout the trial and deliberate conduct by plaintiff’s counsel that misled the jury.”
After the ruling, Maya said the trial carried far more weight than just a financial payout. She said justice has been served, and she believes the jury knows that her mom was right. She was not harming Maya; she was only trying to help her with her pain.
Her father was also relieved with the jury’s decision, stating that parents have rights. They should be able to make decisions for their children, even medical ones.
What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare condition affecting less than 0.06% of the population. It is a chronic pain disorder characterized by muscle weakness and burning sensations.
Complex regional pain syndrome is often triggered by an injury or medical event. Maya developed it in 2015 after suffering a severe asthma attack. She was just 9 years old at the time.
Complex regional pain syndrome results in pain that is much greater than normal. Your senses are out of control. If even so much as a drop of water touches your skin, it can feel like you are being stabbed with a knife.
Complex regional pain syndrome is thought to be caused by C-fiber nerve damage, which can be debilitating. Those with this condition may experience changes in skin color and temperature, swelling, and rapid or nonexistent hair and nail growth.
Complex regional pain syndrome can happen to anyone, but women under the age of 40 are the most prone to it. It is rare in children, but those with preexisting inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, like asthma, are more likely to get it. That may be why Maya developed the condition despite being so young.
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Doctors are well-trained and highly educated medical workers, and while they have spent many years in medical school, they do not always know what is best for patients.
This can lead to medical malpractice and other crimes, as seen in this case. If you or a loved one has been affected, seek legal help right away. Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, has the skills and experience to win your case. We will work hard to gather evidence and get you the best outcome possible. To schedule a free consultation, fill out the online form or call (954) 876-4344. We have offices in Weston, Coral Gables, and Daytona Beach.