Florida Hospital Alleges Juror Misconduct, Wants New Trial After Verdict in Maya Case
The Florida hospital at the center of the high-profile Maya Kowalski negligence case has asked for a new trial, alleging that the jury foreman improperly leaked information during the trial, which resulted in a $216 million verdict against the medical center.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital asked the Sarasota County Circuit Court last week to permit its lawyers to interview the juror; to open discovery into alleged juror misconduct; to require the preservation of evidence, including texts by the juror and his wife; and to order a new trial, according to a motion filed Nov. 22.
The jury foreman allegedly provided information during the trial to his wife, who may have shared the info with a social media influencer who was at the trial, who posted online, and was reportedly connected with the Kowalski family, the hospital argued in its motion.
“This motion sets forth a reasonable basis for a belief that Juror #1 – the foreperson – engaged in presumptively prejudicial misconduct during the course of the trial by deliberately disregarding the Court’s specific instructions (i) not to discuss the case with anyone during the trial, (ii) not to consider any evidence or information outside of what was presented during the trial, and (iii) not to form or express any opinion about the case prior to deliberations,” the motion reads.
The evidence reveals “a shocking level of involvement” in the case and bias in favor of the plaintiffs on the part of the jury foreman’s wife, the motion notes. The juror also posted on social media shortly after the trial, the defendants said.
The motion for a new trial came almost two weeks after the jury found in favor of the Kowalski family and ordered the hospital to pay $211 million in compensatory damages and some $50 million in punitive damages after Maya’s mom died by suicide in 2017. The case gained worldwide attention this year when Netflix aired “Take Care of Maya,” a documentary.
The trial and verdict has raised thorny questions about health care providers’ role when child abuse is suspected – and about a hospital’s liability and medical malpractice coverage in murky situations involving chronic pain and parents’ rights.
Maya, age 10 at the time, was brought to All Children’s Hospital in 2016 with what was described as extreme pain and complex regional pain syndrome. Her mom, Beata Kowalski, a registered nurse, urged doctors to provide doses of ketamine, an anesthetic shown to cause hallucinations in some cases, according to news reports and court documents.
Staff at the hospital raised concerns and reported their concerns to child protection authorities. A county official suspected Maya’s mom suffered from Munchausen by Proxy, a mental condition in which the caregiver makes up symptoms or creates them. After reviewing the case, a judge ordered that the girl be sheltered, at least temporarily, at the hospital.
After almost three months without physical contact with her daughter, Beata committed suicide.
The family sued, and the jury in Venice, Florida, agreed with their contentions about medical negligence, battery, false imprisonment and other claims. The hospital said it plans to appeal, but last week asked for a retrial. The judge has yet to decide on the motion for a new trial.
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