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This article was updated Nov. 16 to include a statement shared with LifeSiteNews by an attorney representing the hospital.

SARASOTA, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — A Florida jury last week awarded a Polish Catholic family over $250 million in damages after finding that a major children’s hospital falsely imprisoned their 10-year-old daughter and caused them intense emotional distress, culminating in the mother’s suicide. 

The jury’s decision is the latest development in a heart-wrenching case that has drawn international attention and sparked renewed emphasis on securing parental rights. 

The Sarasota jury on Thursday decided in favor of the family of Maya Kowalski against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH), granting them over $250 million in damages. The decision came after Kowalski alleged in a civil suit that the hospital bore responsibility for her mother’s suicide in 2017 when staff took custody of her, refused to let her family take her home, neglected her, and a social worker even forced her to be photographed while she was unclothed without gaining permission from her parents.

The case became the subject of a widely viewed Netflix documentary called “Take Care of Maya” that was released in June and immediately racked up millions of views.

Maya, now 17, reportedly cried and held onto her mother’s rosary during the reading of the verdict in court on Thursday.

The jury read their verdict on the third day of deliberations in an eight-week trial after the family’s lengthy battle to bring their complaint to court, The Tampa Bay Times reported. 

The complaint stemmed from Maya’s Kowalski’s experiences with JHACH in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she was admitted to the emergency room for chronic pain in 2016 when she was just 10 years old. 

READ: Hospital cleared of malpractice after seizing teen from parents for over a year

The emergency room visit took a sharp turn after a conflict broke out between hospital staff and the girl’s mother over her treatment. Maya’s mother, Beata Kowalski, who was a trained nurse, told doctors to give her daughter a high dosage of a ketamine treatment that had been prescribed to relieve Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a condition with which Tampa physician Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick had previously diagnosed Maya in 2015. Maya had been given ketamine treatments for roughly a year and had reportedly experienced significant recovery.

However, staffers at JHACH were unfamiliar with CRPS and the high-dosage ketamine treatment, and the family said the hospital did not provide the dosage necessary to stop the pain. After Beata and Maya’s father, Jack, began talking about taking their daughter out of the hospital for lack of sufficient treatment, staffers decided that the child was the victim of medical abuse.

Staffers claimed that Beata had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition in which a parent or caretaker pretends their child is sick or causes their illness themselves. They took custody of Maya and refused to allow the family to take her home. 

“Child protective services investigators have incredible power to remove children,” the Kowalskis’ attorney, Debra M. Salisbury, said in the Netflix documentary. “All they have to prove is that there’s probable cause that there could be harm to the child.”

“I think [Beata] could be a little too direct sometimes, and maybe some of the doctors took that too offensively,” she explained. “I believe somebody at All Children’s Hospital was offended and a conflict started.”

A no-contact order was issued against Beata after the hospital’s preliminary investigation and she was ordered to undergo psychological evaluation, which found no evidence of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Regardless, Beata was not allowed to visit her daughter, Maya was not allowed to go home, and the social worker assigned to Maya later accused Beata of causing harm to her child in a supervised phone call.

“This was a huge power struggle,” Salisbury said. “But no matter what we did, the court repetitively sided with the hospital staff.”

In a December court hearing, the judge denied a request by Maya’s attorney that Beata and Maya be allowed to see one another, at least to exchange a hug. Weeks later, in January 2017, Beata committed suicide.

“I know it’s because he turned her down,” Jack Kowalski said in a recorded conversation with Salisbury included in the Netflix documentary. “That killed her. All the way home, that’s all she talked about.”

Shortly after Beata’s death, JHACH permitted Maya’s father to take her to see a specialist in Rhode Island who confirmed her CRPS diagnosis in a report to the court. Maya was finally released to the custody of her father.

In their Thursday decision, the jury said the hospital had behaved in an “extreme and outrageous” manner and agreed with the Kowalskis that the hospital had committed false imprisonment when it refused to restore Maya to her family. They also found the hospital had fraudulently billed the Kowalskis for the hospital stay and agreed that Maya had been battered and medically neglected by hospital staff while housed at JHACH.

READ: Family accuses Wisconsin officials of covering up hospital’s actions that led to unvaccinated daughter’s death

The jury initially decided that the hospital must pay out $211 million in damages. In a second deliberation later that day, the six-person jury said JHACH must pay out an additional $50 million in punitive damages for the counts of false imprisonment and battery, per the Tampa Bay Times, for a total of $261 million.

The hospital’s attorneys say they plan to appeal the decision, arguing that JHACH staff who placed Maya in state custody had followed the proper protocol.

“We thank the jury for their time and attention during this trial and 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,” attorney Howard Hunter said in a statement shared with LifeSiteNews via email.

“The evidence clearly showed that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital 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,” Howard 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,” he concluded.

The Kowalski family’s ordeal is reminiscent of a separate case involving 15-year-old Justina Pelletier, who was taken away from her parents in 2013 by Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) after doctors claimed the symptoms of her rare mitochondrial disease were part of an induced psychological disorder caused by her parents, LifeSiteNews previously reported.

Justina was ultimately released back to her parents after nearly 16 months of being locked in a psychiatric ward. 

In 2020, a jury cleared four BCH doctors of medical malpractice and negligence for their involvement in the affair.

Send an urgent message to Canadian legislators and courts telling them to uphold parental rights