A juror in the case at the centre of the Netflix documentary Take Care of Maya has been accused of misconduct.
Weeks after the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital was ordered to pay millions of dollars to Maya Kowalski’s family, the hospital has asked for a new trial, alleging juror misconduct in the original proceedings.
Maya and her family won $250m damages after suing the hospital and the Florida Department of Children and Families when her mother took her own life after doctors at the hospital accused her of Munchausen-by-proxy.
The hospital was found liable on all counts this month, including those of false imprisonment, battery and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on both Maya and her mother, Beata Kowalski.
But the hospital is now seeking a re-trial and has asked the court to order the interview of Juror #1, who also served as the panel’s foreperson, according to a motion filed on 22 November.
A sworn affidavit attached to the motion alleges there was “potentially harmful” and “presumptively prejudicial” conduct by the juror with his wife.
The jury was not sequestered during the trial, but attorneys for the hospital have alleged that social media posts by both the juror’s wife and the juror himself after the trial are evidence that the pair had inappropriate conversations during the course of the trial.
Attorneys alleged that the juror’s wife posted “information, insights and opinions” about the case on multiple YouTube Channels beginning on 13 October, including information that “she could only have learned from her husband,” such as the contents of notes sent to the Court from the jury.
Meanwhile, on 31 October, in a post online, she suggested: “‘they [the jury] did not like [Cathi Bedy]’ or any of the witnesses Defendant presented at trial the day prior,” the affidavit alleges.
“On a near daily basis, [Juror #1’s wife] spent hours online engaged in commentary about the trial proceeding, both in real time and after the trial day had ended and the jury was sent home,” it continues.
The motion also alleges the juror’s wife attended the trial in person on 30 October with a social media influencer known as “Jules,” who attorneys describe as “demonstratively embedded with the Plaintiffs.”
The hospital’s lawyers said the juror did not alert the court of his wife’s presence in the courtroom.
The attorneys have also accused the juror of forming a “shared bias” in the Plaintiff’s’ favor, as well as improperly doing research on the internet into issues in the case.
During the trial, the hospital’s lawyers asked for Juror #1 to be removed on the premise of suspected bias in favor of the Plaintiffs.
It comes after the Kowalski family were awarded damages of over $250m by the court, which found that the hospital wrongfully separated Maya from her mother — who later took her own life.
During the two-month-long civil trial, the court heard how the family’s nightmare began after Maya, then nine years old, was brought to an emergency room at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in October 2016 to seek help for complex regional pain syndrome, a rare and debilitating disease.
Maya had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy for a year to treat the symptoms, her family said.
Despite this, the teenager testified that hospital personnel dismissed her condition as largely imaginary.
She said when her mother Beata, a nurse, arrived at the hospital and insisted her daughter be given more ketamine, doctors became suspicious and contacted a child abuse hotline.
A state judge and Florida’s Department of Children and Families later sided with doctors who suspected Beata was suffering from Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, a psychological disorder where parents fabricate their child’s illness.
Maya was ordered to be held in the hospital by the judge and was prevented from seeing her mother. After 87 days, Beata took her own life at the age of 43.
During the trial, the Kowalskis’ lawyer Mr Anderson argued that Maya was “falsely imprisoned and battered, she was denied communication with her family,” according to Fox13.
The jury also found that Maya was wrongfully placed under video surveillance for 48 consecutive hours, as well as being made to strip down to shorts and a training bra for a photograph.
Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital repeatedly denied the allegations and insisted that they meant no harm to Ms Kowalski, before launching an appeal following this month’s verdict.
“The evidence clearly showed that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital followed Florida’s mandatory reporting law in reporting suspected child abuse and, when those suspicions were confirmed by the district court, fully complied with Department of Children and Families (DCF) and court orders,” defence counsel Howard Hunter said in a statement.
“We are determined to defend the vitally important obligation of mandatory reporters to report suspected child abuse and protect the smallest and most vulnerable among us.
“The facts and the law remain on our side, and we will continue to defend the lifesaving and compassionate care provided to Maya Kowalski by the physicians, nurses and staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the responsibility of all mandatory reporters in Florida to speak up if they suspect child abuse.”
Days after the verdict, Maya Kowalski filed a criminal complaint accusing the hospital of sex abuse. A spokesperson for the hospital said it investigated the allegations, which arose during the trial, and contacted law enforcement.
The spokesperson added that the hospital takes allegations of sex abuse “very seriously” and “always puts the safety of their patients above all else.”