A Florida jury found Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital liable on all seven claims in the "Take Care of Maya" trial last week, but the end of that case may not mean the end of the hospital's legal trouble related to it.
Maya Kowalski is now filing a criminal complaint against the hospital for an alleged sexual assault that happened while the then 10-year-old girl was in its care.
She went to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 10, a day after the other court case wrapped, to swear out the complaint, the family's attorney, Gregory Anderson, said.
Anderson first addressed the alleged assault very early in the civil trial, outside the presence of a jury.
He said he had asked Maya if she had told him every encounter she had at the hospital, and he said she then told him of an instance when a man she assumed was a doctor came in and said, "May I take a peek?" The man then pulled down the child's pajamas and underwear then stared at her privates for "long enough for her to be not only startled but start to cry," Anderson told the court of her story. The doctor then walked to the door and said "thanks," and she never saw him again, Anderson claimed.
At that time in the trial, Anderson had told the court he wanted to corroborate the story before bringing it forward, but he said he had at that point because Maya was able to locate a witness: a young friend of hers she had told about the alleged incident a little less than two years after she said it happened. That friend is willing to testify about it, Anderson said.
The defense argued the plaintiffs couldn't add that claim to the civil trial because it would require a motion to change the complaint and could push the trial back another year. Ultimately, the judge decided not to allow it in the now concluded case.
But now, Anderson told Court TV he and his team are hoping to finish drafting a criminal complaint against Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital for the alleged assault by the end of the week.
The attorney said it's important to understand the plaintiffs haven't identified a specific perpetrator at the hospital, and it's not fully clear whether he was a real employee or just someone who sneaked in and managed to get identifying bearings of an employee, like a Johns Hopkins lab coat and ID that Maya recalled seeing.
Anderson outlined what kind of charges one could expect to see with a complaint like this. He said on the one hand, there will be an assault, battery and intentional infliction count against the hospital acting through an employee or physician. The alternative would be counts involving premises liability, negligent supervision and negligent security — which he says are typical causes of action in which a facility "failed to maintain the appropriate security and protection for the patrons" or patient in this case.
"It's well documented that 10-year-old children are going to suppress their feelings about such things, and so how Maya reacted at the time, we still have a lot to discover and figure out," Anderson said. "If the question is how do we prove that … I think just having the fact that somebody was able to get into a children's hospital — and remember this was in the PICU — so how did somebody manage to make it into the PICU without anybody noticing them if it was in fact someone who was not a doctor or otherwise employed there?"
Anderson pointed to testimony from the civil case that noted Maya was sequestered from other patients and didn't have her name or identification outside of her room.
"Our question is this: Doesn't this tend to attract the type of perpetrator we're talking about here?" Anderson told Court TV. "If this child has a — for lack of a better term — reputation among the hospital staff as someone who can't be believed because of the allegations against her — of factitious disorder, conversion disorder — doesn't that kind of set her up to be a target for a predator?"
Anderson said it will be up to the sheriff's office to conduct their investigation and make a determination on its merit.
In a statement to Scripps News, Ethen Shapiro, an attorney for the hospital from Hill Ward Henderson, said it had conducted its own investigation upon becoming aware of the allegations.
"These allegations originally arose during trial and were not admitted into the case," Shapiro said. "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. 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."
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital was found liable for all civil claims against it in the "Take Care of Maya" trial, including: false imprisonment and battery of Maya Kowalski, fraudulent billing of Jack Kowalski, inflicting emotional distress on Beata Kowalski, wrongful death claim for the estate of Beata Kowalski and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Maya Kowalski.
In total, the Kowalski family will receive more than $261 million in damages.
The story of Maya's case has been viewed by millions in the Netflix documentary "Take Care of Maya." At its core, the Kowalski family claimed the hospital's treatment and accusations of child abuse against Beata led the mother to take her own life in January 2017. The defense argued the hospital's actions were reasonable and in Maya's best interest.
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