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Managing Partner
The Cochran Firm - Dallas

A family who lost their matriarch to suicide after a hospital grossly mistreated their sick child has won their landmark case. 

It seems fitting that the case of Maya Kowalski, whose battle with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) was chronicled in a hit 2023 Netflix documentary, came to an end in November – which is designated CRPS Awareness Month – the month chosen to recognize a disorder so painful it is nicknamed “the suicide disease.”

Justice for Maya – And the Mother She Lost

After just over 16 hours of deliberation, the jury in the Maya Kowalski case announced on November 8 that the actions of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital drove Maya’s mother, Beata, to take her life.

The lawsuit was filed against the healthcare giant by Maya’s father, Jack, in 2018. Jack and his wife, Beata, a registered IV nurse, brought Maya there in 2016 during a severe CRPS flare-up. 

Instead of treating her pain, hospital staff told Jack and Beata that Maya couldn’t possibly have CRPS. This was despite a previously confirmed diagnosis and several successful ketamine treatments at the same hospital!

A hospital social worker even called the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) child abuse hotline, accusing Beata of giving Maya harmful doses of ketamine. 

DCF ordered the hospital to close the investigation after finding valid ketamine prescriptions on file. Those orders were ignored. Instead, a doctor named Sally Smith diagnosed Maya as a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a rare mental illness and form of child abuse in which parents fabricate fake sickness for their children, subjecting them to unnecessary medications and procedures.

Maya, now 17, took the stand on October 2 to testify that All Children’s Hospital initially kept her in the hospital for a week, screaming from pain and constipation. Her mother kissed her goodbye and promised to return the next day. 

Instead, Maya began a three-month forced hospital stay and separation from her parents. According to her testimony, her care team filmed her without her consent, entrusted her to a social worker who touched her inappropriately, and forced her into unbearably painful physical therapy. 

Beata was separated from her daughter for 87 days before she realized that the only way Maya would be able to come home was if Beata was no longer there. The agony of being kept away from her sick child pushed her into committing suicide. 

Only after this unthinkable tragedy was Maya allowed to return home and resume her treatment for CRPS.

Maya described her pain to the jury as if she was born with gasoline in her body; even minor events like a sprained ankle were “a catalyst that just set my body on fire and I have to live with this burning pain.”

The Kowalski family was awarded more than $200 million in punitive and compensatory damages, including:

  • False imprisonment and battery of Maya
  • Fraudulently billing Jack for more than $530,000 for CRPS treatment that they were disputing the diagnosis
  • Inflicting emotional distress on Beata and Maya
  • Wrongful death claim for Jack and Maya, as well as Beata’s estate

The original lawsuit included the Florida DCF, hospital social worker Cathi Bedy, Smith, and Smith’s employer, Suncoast Center. According to media reports, the Kowalskis settled with Smith and Suncoast for $2.5 million in December 2021; Bedy was later dropped from the suit, leaving only All Children’s Hospital for the trial.

All Children’s Hospital maintained throughout the trial that they did what was in the best interest of the child….despite the wishes of her parents for her to receive Ketamine treatments prescribed by her team of doctors, who were some of the best national experts on CRPS and Ketamine in the country.  

More About CRPS

Ninety percent of CRPS cases are due to limb trauma during an accident, like a car crash or slip-and-fall. In rare cases, it can result from medical malpractice, such as incorrectly performed surgery. Most CRPS cases stem from nerve damage sustained in a bone fracture, either because the bones are displaced, or the cast is too constricting. Other potential causes include sprains, surgical scars or incisions, and cuts/burns.

The immune systems of CRPS patients mistake healthy cells for foreign invaders and respond by attacking with inflammation. Symptoms include:

  • constant or occasional burning and stinging pain
  • numbness or extreme sensitivity to touch and pressure
  • swollen skin, or skin warmer or colder than the normal limb
  • decreased mobility
  • nail/hair growth that stops or increases

Treating CRPS early can sometimes send it into remission; untreated, it will quickly worsen and become irreversible. Sometimes, muscles and bones will atrophy, forcing limbs or digits into permanently painful fixed positions. 

A life of constant pain that family and friends cannot understand often damages or ruins personal relationships.

CRPS is rare, affecting almost 200,000 Americans annually. The Kowalski family’s victory will hopefully help others understand the unique challenges behind this vastly misunderstood condition.

Do I Need a CRPS Lawyer?

The CRPS attorneys at the Cochran Firm Texas are well-versed in helping patients recover damages to help cope with this devastating chronic disease. Maya’s story is the perfect example of why patients whose CRPS results from negligence should hire a qualified CRPS attorney.

Most injuries from car accidents, slip-and-falls, and other personal injury events heal eventually. CRPS saddles its victims with lifelong reminders of the trauma they endured, along with decades of medical bills, physical and mental therapy, and lost wages/enjoyment of life. 

Furthermore, the burden of proof in CRPS injuries can be very difficult, as symptoms aren’t always immediate and can easily be misdiagnosed.

If your accident was the result of someone else’s carelessness, a CRPS personal injury lawsuit can secure the financial damages you need to stay afloat while adjusting to your new reality. 

The Cochran Firm Texas has helped many victims of injury-related CRPS find justice. Our team is well-versed in the specific intricacies of CRPS and eager to discuss your legal options. Please reach out for a free consultation whenever you’re ready via 24/7 online chat, 1-800-843-3476, or at our online contact form.

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