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In 'Maya' case, judge lowers jury award but dismisses All Children's retrial request

 Judge Hunter Carroll lowered some of the jury awards to the Kowalski family but dismissed All Children's motion for a retrial.
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Judge Hunter Carroll lowered some of the jury awards to the Kowalski family but dismissed All Children's motion for a retrial.

Judge Hunter Carroll decreased the judgment for Maya Kowalski and her family from Netflix's "Take Care of Maya" documentary nearly $47.5 million but denied Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital's motion for a retrial.

A judge ruled this week that Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg will not get a retrial in a case that accused the health care provider of holding a young girl against her will.

But the judge did decrease the $261 million awarded to the girl and her family by a jury by $47.5 million.

The case gained national attention after Netflix aired a documentary last year called “Take Care of Maya," which shared an emotional story about the care Maya Kowalski received when she visited the hospital in 2016.

Judge Hunter Carroll on Tuesday released an order regarding the hospital's post-trial motions. One asked for a new trial and decreased jury awards and the other asked for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

"There is no doubt that the various monetary awards by the jury are significant," Carroll's order said. "Being large, though, does not necessarily mean they are excessive. In almost all cases here, they are not. Where they are, the Court has remitted the excessive jury award."

The judge decreased the amount the hospital owed by about 20 percent. The largest change lowered the damages for Maya's father due to her mother's death, from $50 million to $24 million.

The hospital is still required to pay the family over $213 million.

The judge also denied the hospital's motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

"Despite the picture painted by (Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital’s) motion, this jury did not go off the rails," the order said.

In a statement to Health News Florida regarding the judge's order, the hospital's attorney Ethen Shapiro said it was a step forward in the appeal, but called the rulings "disappointing" and said they set a "dangerous and unacceptable standard" for victims of child abuse and mandatory reporters.

"Review of the complete facts and the law in this case will vindicate the care provided by the experts at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital," Shapiro said. "We will pursue the appeals process for as long as necessary to reach a final, just conclusion for the physicians, nurses, and staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and all those who are legally and morally obligated to speak up if they suspect child abuse. We are confident in our appeal and look forward to proceeding with it."

A Netflix documentary called “Take Care of Maya" released last year shared an emotional story about the care Maya received at the hospital in 2016.

Maya was 10 years old when she was rushed into the emergency room for severe pain. The symptoms were something her doctors had already diagnosed as complex regional pain disorder — an illness causing intermittent chronic pain that can be disabling.

But for three months the hospital kept Maya separated from her family, claiming medical abuse. Her mother, Beata Kowalski, later died by suicide. She believed that was the only way to get her daughter out of the hospital.

The family took the hospital to court.

After an eight-week trial in Venice, a jury found the hospital liable for its mistreatment of Maya — citing at least three occasions where she was falsely imprisoned and at least two occasions of battery.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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Meghan Bowman