Venice, Florida – After facing a lengthy legal battle, the Kowalski family received a sense of closure on Thursday when a jury awarded them over $261 million in damages in their lawsuit against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. This case has gained national attention due in part to a Netflix film released in June 2023 that tells the Kowalski family’s story. The trial centered around the struggle between parental rights and the obligations of mandatory reporters in cases of suspected child abuse.
The Kowalskis initially sued All Children’s Hospital, social worker Catherine Bedy, and Dr. Sally Smith, the former medical director of the Pinellas County Child Protection Team. Their lawsuit came over a year after Beata Kowalski tragically took her own life following child abuse allegations that resulted in 10-year-old Maya being separated from her family.
The family brought Maya to All Children’s Hospital in 2016 due to severe stomach pain. The hospital staff, noting inconsistencies between Maya’s behavior and her condition, suspected possible child abuse and made calls to the abuse hotline. This triggered a three-month ordeal for the Kowalski family.
Smith and her employer settled with the family for $2.5 million before the trial began, and the family dropped Bedy from the lawsuit. Ultimately, the jury found the hospital liable for multiple claims, including false imprisonment, battery, medical negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They also awarded punitive damages for false imprisonment and battery.
The jury’s decision on compensatory damages aimed to compensate for incurred damages, injuries, and future losses. They then deliberated on punitive damages, ultimately awarding the family an additional $50 million.
The highest compensatory damages were awarded to Jack Kowalski, totaling $50 million for the loss of his wife’s companionship, protection, and his own pain and suffering. Maya Kowalski received the second-highest sum, $22 million, for pain and suffering and future losses relating to medical negligence.
The hospital has stated its intention to appeal the verdict, citing alleged errors and misleading conduct during the trial. However, the Kowalski family’s attorney remains unfazed by the appeal, expressing hope that the hospital will reconsider prolonging the legal battle. Furthermore, the attorney indicated that a second complaint related to possible sexual abuse allegations made by Maya would be filed.
While the trial has concluded, the case is far from over. The Kowalskis still face the appeals process, but their victory in court has granted them a sense of justice.