Trial Judge Reduces $261M “Take Care of Maya” Medical Malpractice Verdict By $47.5M

“Pain more intense than childbirth. Pain more intense that kidney stones. Pain more intense than amputating one’s limb. The worse pain imaginable, the degree and intensity which most of us cannot comprehend. Pain so intolerable that the condition is nicknamed the “suicide disease.” This was but a small portion of the evidence presented to the jury concerning the pain associated with a condition called Complex Pain Regional Syndrome (“CRPS”)…, Trial Judge Reduces $261M “Take Care of Maya” Medical Malpractice Verdict By $47.5M, Apr 2024


Maya Kowalski contended at trial that she has CRPS, and had CRPS, when she presented to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (“JHACH”) in October 2016. JHACH disagreed that she had CRPS, and the jury was presented evidence that health care providers at JHACH believed she was faking it. And there was evidence that JHACH treated her, or more precisely, declined to treat her, accordingly.


The jury learned this failure to treat CRPS will increase the number of, severity of, and duration of, future CRPS flare-up episodes Maya will experience throughout her entire life. In other words, there was evidence that JHACH, by its conscious indifference, sentenced Maya to even more extreme, debilitating pain that she will have to endure throughout her entire life than she otherwise would have had had JHACH correctly treated her.


The jury also was presented with evidence concerning JHACH’s egregious treatment of Maya Kowalski’s mother, Beata Kowalski. Based on that treatment, the jury found that JHACH intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Beata Kowalski that resulted in her death by suicide.”


For the most part, the Court rejects without comment JHACH’s contentions for the reasons explained during the trial as well as those cited by Plaintiffs in their response.”


“The Court concludes the Legislature by adopting section 39.203(1)(a) did not immunize a hospital that intentionally harms a child. The Court further concludes the Legislature did not immunize a hospital from its medical malpractice or fraudulent billing.”


“Given the balance sheet and other evidence of net worth exceeding $1.2 billion introduced into evidence, the punitive damage awards were rather tempered between the need to punish and the consequences on others based on that punishment. If this jury truly were influenced by improper emotion instead of a dispassionate evaluation of the evidence, it could have awarded $500 million or more without coming close to bankrupting JHACH. But it did not. Instead, it awarded a meaningful—but not debilitating—amount.”


“The Court understands that the health care providers at JHACH to their core believed that Maya was not safe in Beata Kowalski’s presence. And the law permitted them to share those concerns in the abuse hotline report and to the Dependency Court. They should have kept their actions there. But there was evidence they did not. And there was evidence from which the jury could find JHACH’s hubris in engaging in conduct to Maya’s face that JHACH purposefully designed to destroy Maya’s relationship with her mother.”


“The question of how to compensate a claimant for a human, noneconomic loss, always comes down to a question of money. The Court has heard the arguments on both sides in this case and other cases concerning the propriety of awarding money to compensate for noneconomic damages. But Florida law, like the law in all other common law jurisdictions, has not found a better way. The Court suspects any claimant would say they would rather have the decedent alive and with them instead of x or y dollars. And the Court is aware of the age-old discussion of the adequacy of the standard jury instructions on noneconomic damages. The reality is the jury is permitted to determine an amount that is fair and just in the light of the evidence subject to the Legislature’s command for the Court to evaluate it for, among other things, excessiveness.”


“Under these very unique circumstances, the Court concludes that the jury could properly award $18 million to each child and will deny the remitter motion for those claims. The $50 million award to Jack Kowalski for noneconomic damages, however, is excessive. Here, the highest amount which the jury could have properly awarded as a noneconomic damage award for Jack Kowalski’s loss was $24 million in consideration of the evidence. The Court, therefore, will remit the $50 million verdict for Jack Kowalski’s survivor noneconomic damages by $26 million to $24 million. In total, the noneconomic damage award for the three remaining Kowalski survivors is $60 million in the aggregate.”


Kowalski v. Johns Hopkins All Childrens Hospital Inc., Case No. 2018 CA 005321 NC Division C Circuit.


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