Sunday, November 19, 2023

Munchausen by proxy 2

Maya Kowalski, the 17-year-old who was awarded more than $260 million in damages and punitive damages in her civil lawsuit against a Florida children's hospital, has filed a sexual assault complaint against the hospital, according to her attorney. 

Maya; her father, Jack Kowalski; and her brother, Kyle Kowalski, accused staff at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital (JHAC) in St. Petersburg of falsely imprisoning Maya, fraudulently billing their family and causing their family severe emotional distress. They said the hospital's actions, including making medical abuse allegations against Maya's mother, Beata Kowalski, drove Beata to suicide in 2017.

The case took the country by storm after it inspired the popular documentary series "Take Care of Maya," which follows the story of Maya and Beata as they navigated Maya's rare, chronic neurological condition called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – an obscure condition that causes severe pain throughout a person's body due to nervous system dysfunction, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

"I am claiming that there was sexual abuse. It's something that I was quite quiet about for a couple of years because I was worried it wasn't going to be taken seriously," Maya told Fox News' Martha MacCallum on Thursday.

Ethen Shapiro, an attorney from Hill Ward Henderson who represented JHAC in the case, told Fox News Digital in a statement that Maya's "allegations originally arose during trial and were not admitted into the case."

"As soon as the hospital became aware of the allegations, and in accordance with their policies, they immediately initiated an internal investigation and contacted law enforcement last month," Shapiro said. "Federal privacy laws restrict Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital from sharing more, but the hospital takes allegations of this nature very seriously and always puts the safety of their patients above all else."

In 2016, Maya was admitted to JHAC for severe pain caused by her CRPS, which was previously diagnosed by another Florida doctor. 

Later that year, a court order removed Maya from the custody of her parents after staff accused Beata of medical abuse, saying that she exhibited signs of Munchausen by proxy, in part because Beata was insisting to JHAC that Maya needed heavy doses of ketamine to ease her pain. 

"It's absolutely preposterous that someone would say that my mother was forcing these symptoms onto me. You have to remember – her and I both – we didn't know what I had. No one did. So, she couldn't come up with a list of symptoms and make up this disease," Maya said Thursday.

Beata hanged herself in her garage in January 2017 after being separated from her hospitalized daughter for months. 

"I know that my mom gave up her life for me. I understood that at the age of 11 years old," Maya continued. "Now, I try to go on. I try to live my life as positively as I can, but I want people to know that in her doing that, she wasn't giving up. As a matter of fact, in her doing that, that’s the only way she saw for us to win."

Her attorney, Greg Anderson, noted that JHAC continued to bill the Kowalski family for CRPS even after saying Maya did not have the condition and accusing her mother of making up Maya's symptoms for her. 

"There were medical records within Johns Hopkins where they had seen her 17 times," Anderson told MacCallum. "This was not her first visit there, and since the diagnosis by Dr. Kirkpatrick at the RSD institute, everyone had adopted that CRPS, but on this one evening, a team of ER doctors decided for whatever reason that they would go against five different experts and decide that it didn't meet their own internal protocols… and change everything."

Multiple witnesses, including health care professionals at JHAC, testified during the trial that Beata had been exhibiting signs of Munchausen by proxy and that Maya's perceived CRPS symptoms had been driven by her mother. Munchausen by proxy is a psychological disorder in which an abusive parent or caretaker makes up or causes an illness for a person under their care – often the parent's own child – who is not actually ill. 

The defense argued over the course of the trial that hospitals have a responsibility to report abuse when they see it, and in Maya's case, doctors agreed that Beata was exhibiting abusive behavior, including what they described as unsafe doses of ketamine Beata gave her daughter.

"One of the most unfortunate parts of this case is the caption: Kowalskis v. All Children's. We were never against the Kowalski family," attorney Ethen Shapiro, who represented JHAC, said in his closing statements. "The reason why All Children's did what it did, the reason why All Children's tried to comfort Maya, the reason why All Children's tried to get her on a safe medical path is because the loving and caring providers at my clients' hospital believed in a better future for her if they could get her off the unnecessary drugs given at dangerous levels."

Howard Hunter, an attorney with Hill Ward Henderson who representing JHAC in this case, thanked the jury for their "time and attention" in a statement to Fox News Digital. He added that JHAC plans to appeal the decision "based on clear and prejudicial errors throughout the trial and deliberate conduct by plaintiff’s counsel that misled the jury."

"The evidence clearly showed that [JHAC] followed Florida’s mandatory reporting law in reporting suspected child abuse and, when those suspicions were confirmed by the district court, fully complied with Department of Children and Families (DCF) and court orders," Hunter said.

"We are determined to defend the vitally important obligation of mandatory reporters to report suspected child abuse and protect the smallest and most vulnerable among us. 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."


  1. Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital (JHAC) has filed a motion for a new trial in the high-profile Maya Kowalski medical abuse case, citing alleged juror misconduct that could have influenced the previous verdict. The hospital is claiming that a juror's notes containing Nazi symbols indicate bias against one of the defendants, Dr. Sally Smith. This development follows a November verdict awarding Maya Kowalski's family over $260 million in damages due to alleged mistreatment at the hospital.

    The controversy revolves around Juror No. 1, who, according to JHAC's motion, wrote notes during the trial with Nazi symbols placed suggestively around Dr. Sally Smith's name. The hospital argues that this behavior demonstrates bias and prejudice against Dr. Smith, equating her with the Nazi Schutzstaffel, a paramilitary organization from World War II.

    In response, Maya's attorney, Greg Anderson, expressed strong opposition to the hospital's motion, deeming it "completely and utterly inappropriate." Anderson stated, "Even if there were some way to make a connection — which there's not in any way, shape or form. Going after a juror — and trying to make any connection at all to such a loathsome part of history is … inappropriate and contrary to everything that our rules of professional conduct stand for."

    The defense has also alleged other instances of juror misconduct, suggesting that Juror No. 1 may have held negative feelings toward the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The juror posted a statement about the trial on a public Facebook page associated with the "Take Care of Maya" documentary, expressing opposition to JHAC's motion for a new trial.

    Despite these allegations, Anderson maintains that the defense is "grasping at straws" and pursuing various arguments for a new trial. He believes the hospital's desire for a do-over does not align with the jury's verdict and public sentiment. "They just don't understand that the jury, in fact, the country, has rejected their conduct," Anderson added.

    The Maya Kowalski case gained significant attention when the jury awarded the Kowalski family substantial damages on November 9th. The family had alleged that JHAC falsely imprisoned Maya, fraudulently billed her family, and caused them severe emotional distress. The jury also determined that social worker Catherine Bedy had battered Maya, and Dr. Smith had medically neglected her.

    Maya's medical journey began when she was admitted to JHAC at the age of 10, suffering from a complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Subsequent concerns led to her removal from her parents' custody after staff accused Beata Kowalski, her mother, of medical abuse. The case inspired the popular documentary series "Take Care of Maya."

    With a hearing for the new trial set for Friday, the case continues to generate debate and public interest. JHAC's motion for a new trial raises questions about the impact of alleged juror misconduct on the previously awarded damages and the potential for a retrial in this highly contentious medical abuse case.