Jurors in Florida recently found a renowned children’s hospital liable for medical malpractice, false imprisonment and emotional distress, awarding $220 million to the now-17-year-old plaintiff.
As our Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers can explain, this case is unique for several reasons. First, it’s rare for a Florida medical malpractice case to involve false imprisonment, which is an intentional tort. Secondly, the case was featured in a documentary on Netflix called, “Take Care of Maya,” prior to the verdict.
The plaintiff was 10 and suffering from a chronic pain condition when her mother brought her into the hospital and told doctors she needed ketamine treatments, which are considered risky, especially for children. The girl had reportedly been given such treatments initially in Mexico, and the mother said it significantly improved her condition.
But hospital staff didn’t buy it. They didn’t think the girl was truly in as much pain as was alleged. In fact, they suspected this to be a case of Munchausen by Proxy syndrome.
Munchausen is a condition in which caregivers make up or greatly exaggerate a child’s illness so they can gain attention and sympathy for themselves. In the extreme, it can be an incredibly traumatic form of child abuse.
Hospital staffers contacted state welfare authorities, who in turn removed the girl from her parents’ care and established her as an involuntary medical ward of the state. As a medical “ward” of the state, the right to make medical decisions was taken from her parents and given to the state.
The girl’s mother was denied the right to see her for nearly three months. She was also accused of child abuse. In the midst of all this, the girl’s mother committed suicide.
The girl still suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, which is a neurological ailment that can result in intense pain to spread throughout the nervous system. The hospital attempted to allege that the girl was exaggerating her illness, showing pictures of her happy and smiling at an outing during the time of the trial. She countered she was simply attending her high school graduation.
As part of the medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges the hospital was dismissive of her pain, and she felt abandoned and alone while she was kept a ward of the state. Further, plaintiff said she was cruelly kept away from her mother.
Attorneys for the hospital say the ketamine was not only unnecessary but dangerous to give a young child.
Jurors sided wholly with the plaintiff. In reading the verdict, the clerk made reference to the mother’s suicide and the hospital’s alleged complicity in her death.
The hospital now faces not only this $220 million verdict, but also tens of millions of dollars in other penalties. It’s likely, though, that the hospital will appeal. They assert they followed state rules for mandatory reporting of child abuse when they had just cause to believe that’s what was happening.
If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of medical malpractice in South Florida, contact the medical malpractice injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Take Care of Maya, IMBD
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