VENICE, Fla. (Court TV) — The hospital ordered to pay more than $200 million to the family at the center of the ‘Take Care of Maya’ Trial has filed a motion for a new trial alleging juror misconduct in the case.
A jury ordered Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH) to pay Jack, Kyle and Maya Kowalski a total of $211,451,174 after finding the hospital liable for false imprisonment, battery, fraudulent billing, infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death. Maya Kowalski, now 17, was at the center of the trial: at 9 years old, she was held at the hospital after her family was wrongly accused of medically abusing her. Her story became famous after it was featured in the Netflix Documentary, “Take Care of Maya.”
In a motion filed on Nov. 22, the hospital asked the court to order a new trial and order the interview of Juror #1, who also served as the panel’s foreperson.
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 course of the 9-week trial.
Attorneys for JHACH alleged that social media posts by both the juror’s wife and the juror themselves after the trial are evidence that the pair had inappropriate conversations during the course of the trial. The attorneys accuse Juror #1 of having conversations about the case with his wife as well as forming a “shared bias” in the Plaintiff’s’ favor.
According to the motion, the juror’s wife physically attended trial proceedings on Oct. 30, 2023, while her husband was serving on the jury. Juror #1 did not alert the court of her presence. The hospital’s attorneys also argue that the juror’s wife sought out a social media influencer known as “Jules,” whom they describe as “demonstratively embedded with the Plaintiffs.” The juror’s wife can allegedly be seen in video footage sitting next to and speaking with Jules while in the courtroom.
“Defendant has obtained evidence demontrating that [Juror #1’s wife] was heavily engaged with the trial online both before and after she physically appeared in court, posting comments about the case that are unequivicolly and palpably pro-Plaintiff.“
Attorneys said that the juror’s wife, posting as “Hippolover,” posted “information, insights and opinions” about the case beginning on Oct. 13 on multiple YouTube Channels and followed a number of journalists covering the trial, including the producer of the Netflix documentary. “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 (including her husband, Juror #1, with whom she resided).
At times, the juror’s wife allegedly posted information that the hospital’s attorneys contend “she could only have learned from her husband,” including mentions that the jury planned to ask questions of specific witnesses and the contents of notes sent to the Court from the jury. On Oct. 31, her posts went so far as to say, “‘they [the jury] did not like [Cathi Bedy]’ or any of the witnesses Defendant presented at trial the day prior.”
During the trial, attorneys representing JHACH requested for Juror #1 to be removed on the premise of suspected bias in favor of the Plaintiffs. Days later, the Juror made a comment about being “in trouble once again” which attorneys said indicates he knew that there was a push to have him removed from the jury, something he should not have known.
Following the trial, Juror #1 joined the “Take Care of Maya” Facebook group.
“In another comment, when a user pointed out that Juror #1’s wife being in the audience could be a problem for the verdict, Juror #1 ‘laughed’ at the comment to mock it. Juror #1 also ‘liked’ a comment from the group, which advised him to ‘be careful’ regarding what questions he asked, as a new trial could be granted if he ‘says something now that implies he made up his mind.'”
Attorneys for JHACH also accused Juror #1 of improperly doing research on the internet into issues in the case, which members of the jury were specifically instructed not to do.