Nobody Should Believe Me S02

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Kowalski Case Update with Ethen Shapiro

Join Andrea as she delves back into the ongoing legal battle of Kowalski v. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, with Ethen Shapiro, the lead defense attorney for Johns Hopkins All Children’s. They discuss the grounds for a retrial based on allegations of juror misconduct and the potential chilling effect on mandatory reporters following the substantial amount of money awarded to the Kowalski family by the jury.

We also look at the the broader societal impacts on mandatory reporting and the protecting vulnerable children from abuse.

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Show Notes

Host Andrea Dunlop:

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For information and resources:

The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children’s MBP Practice Guidelines can be downloaded here.

More about Dr. Marc Feldman:


[00:00:00] Before we begin, a quick warning that in this show we discuss child abuse, and this content may be difficult for some listeners. If you or anyone you know is a victim or survivor of medical child abuse, please go to Munchausensupport. com to connect with professionals who can help. As I’ve been discussing in these follow up episodes to our third season, there is plenty more left to play out in Kowalski v.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s. The plot just continues to thicken. And today, I wanted to zero in on what’s happening in court and what the outcome of this case could mean. Not just for the Kowalskis, but for the future of mandatory reporting laws and protections in this country.

People believe their eyes. That’s something that actually is so central to this whole issue and to people that experience this is that we do believe the people that we love when they’re telling us something. If you questioned everything [00:01:00] that everyone told you, you couldn’t make it through your day. I’m Andrea Dunlop, and this is Nobody Should Believe Me.

Welcome back to our extended season three. Today we’re going to be catching you up on where the Kowalski case stands. So please listen to season three before jumping in, or if you want to get up to speed in a hurry, you can listen to episodes one through four from last season, which I’ve organized in a Spotify playlist that I will include in the show notes.

And just as a reminder, if you want even more new content, you can subscribe on Apple or Patreon where you will get at least two bonus episodes a month. Right now I am deep diving the Justina Pelletier case with Dr. Becks. And as always, if monetary support isn’t an option for you, rating and reviewing the show and sharing it on social media are great ways to support us.

You can also now find us on YouTube if that’s a place you’d like consuming podcasts. And if you want to get in touch with us, you can do [00:02:00] so by emailing us at hello at nobody should believe me. com or leaving us a voicemail at 4 8 4 7 9 8 0 2 6 6. We have a mailbag episode in the works, so we would love to hear from you.

And, one last exciting piece of housekeeping, I have a new book coming out. The Mother Next Door, Medicine, Deception, and Munchausen by Proxy, which I co authored with Detective Mike Weber, friend of the show, will be out on February 5th from St. Martin’s Press. We are covering three of Mike’s cases, and these will be stories that listeners of the show will recognize, but I promise

you will learn so many new fascinating elements about each case, and I really think you’re going to love this book.

The book is available for pre order right now. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the vagaries of book publishing, I can tell you that pre orders make a huge, huge difference to a book success because publishers use these as a metric to determine how much resources they are going to put into a [00:03:00] book’s launch.

So if you think you are going to buy it in the future, doing so now will really help us out. Okay, on with the show.

So far, the legal drama of Kowalski v. Johns Hopkins All Children’s has played out in a familiar arc. There were years of legal wrangling that led to a dramatic seven week trial and resulted in a massive award for the Kowalski family. So that’s a wrap, right? They got their day in court. Time for a victory lap?

Maybe not. The reality is, we may be more towards the halfway point of this race than the finish line. So to bring us up to speed on the continued court proceedings, we caught up with Ethan Shapiro, the lead attorney for Johns Hopkins All Children’s. Thank you so much for coming back to do a follow up interview with us, Ethan.

Sure. Thanks for having me. If you listened to my last interview with Ethan, you may remember [00:04:00] that almost immediately after the verdict, the defense made several motions for retrial. One of these had to do with possible juror misconduct on behalf of the jury foreman. So the scope of our inquiry was really twofold.

One, whether he had been truthful in disclosing some of his past interactions with DCF, some of his past interactions with the child dependency system, so that we would be able to explore potential biases coming in, and then whether he had taken in information outside of what would be allowed, which would only be that which the judge would allow in the courtroom.

The court ultimately had some disagreements with the defense position, which was not unexpected in terms of what the scope of the inquiry would be. The court did have a limited inquiry into what the court thought would be appropriate questioning and ultimately determined that there was not. I want to point out here that accusing a juror of misconduct is a really big [00:05:00] deal, and there appeared to be some compelling evidence that misconduct did happen here, which was why the defense requested a full inquiry into both the jury foreman and his wife, including an examination of their electronic devices.

To recap the allegations from the motion to disqualify this juror, the motion states that in numerous incidents, the jury foreman had demonstrated clear bias towards the plaintiff throughout the trial, and also that he disregarded the court’s instructions not to communicate with anyone about the case, Or consume any media about the case.

These motions are extremely detailed, but some of the most eyebrow raising evidence came via his wife’s extensive social media use during the trial, which indicated her full throated support of the plaintiff’s case. She even made donations to pro plaintiff YouTubers. And in one instance, she showed up to court with Jules, one of the Kowalski’s most fervent advocates who is a TikToker.

There was also a question about the foreman’s [00:06:00] truthfulness during the selection process. There are honestly too many individual details to list here, but if you want to go all the way down the rabbit hole, I’m going to unlock that episode of the subscriber feed and you can listen to Dr. Bex and I unpack that whole motion.

In the end, the interview Judge Hunter Carroll did with the juror, was extremely limited in scope. Truthfully, my impressions from watching it on the live broadcast were that the judge was not taking it terribly seriously. Apparently, your wife showed up in court on October 30th. That was the day before you dyed your hair.

If I remember correctly. Well, your hair went orange. Yes, for Halloween, I assume. I got up early to watch this and midway into watching one of the plaintiff’s attorney argue that the juror’s use of SS in writing Sally Smith was more likely to be a KISS reference than a Nazi reference, [00:07:00] despite the plaintiff’s constant Nazi references about Sally in the hospital.

I just thought. What are we doing here? The juror to supplement on the writing of the lettering. I think the court has dealt with that, but if we’re talking about using the letters, I have a demonstrative exhibit. Okay. Those letters are commonly used for a long time. Okay. It does not mean it’s a Nazi symbol.

From what I’ve read online, two of the founding members are Jewish in this group. So I think that should dispose of that. So it wasn’t shocking that nothing came of this. In his final ruling, Judge Carroll did lower the award by about 40 million, but that still leaves it north of 200 million. And it’s just such a staggering amount, I asked Ethan if he felt the jury might have lost the plot a bit when it came to compensation.

There are just numbers on a page at some point, except for the insanely rich has ever touched or will ever touch, [00:08:00] or can even visualize how much money that would look like in a room. Yeah, it just strikes me sort of looking at the award, I think sometimes when we hear numbers, especially that are upwards of, I don’t know, 40, 50 million, we just sort of lose all perspective on what that kind of money even means.

And it seems like, in some ways, a lot to ask of a jury of. lay persons to sort of decide how much of any of these things are worth. And I mean, in terms of like, I wonder just like how often do you even see being, you know, that medical malpractice is obviously one of your areas of specialty. I mean, how often do you see verdicts that are even approaching this size?

This would be rare, certainly, you know, we can track verdicts around the country. This would be rare to see them this high. There’s a bit of a trend in today’s society for verdicts to be climbing. Exactly why is the subject of intense scrutiny among people in the industry [00:09:00] and can be part of a longer conversation.

I have my theories, but they’re speculative. But, you know, to your question, The amount of the verdict is certainly something that’s going to factor into our appeal in terms of whether that was based on the evidence actually presented to the jury. Both what they saw and whether it was evidence that they should have been allowed to consider.

One thing that seems likely to factor into the appeal is that the evidence presented to the jury did not include any defense testimony about medical child abuse. The entire reason Maya was sheltered at the hospital to begin with. We’ve discussed this at length, but honestly, I cannot get over it. This is the biggest medical child abuse related case in my lifetime, and somehow medical child abuse wasn’t relevant?

Make it make sense. As I’ve watched people heralding this verdict as a win, as justice having been served, I just think, for who? Who do you think won [00:10:00] here, other than Jack Kowalski and the lawyers? Because I’m not even sure I think this is a win for Maya and Kyle. And also, who do you think is going to pay for this?

The way the hospital was vilified in the Take Care of Maya film and by the plaintiff throughout the trial, I wondered if people envisioned some money grubbing hospital CEO footing the bill, or at very least that a hospital the size of Johns Hopkins All Children’s could just absorb the expense without much consequence.

I asked Ethan for his take on this. It’s directly false, and I’ll tell you why. You know, so, and I don’t do corporate law. I don’t know that, uh, you want me near a corporate disclosure. But, you know, anyone who’s a 501c3, which is the fancy name for a charitable organization, their mission is to take the money they use and put it back in the community.

That’s the end of the day. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, or your local community hospital, or, you know, even for that matter, [00:11:00] A lot of the local charities you get, they have a charitable mission for which any money that they have at the end of the day, they put back into their community foundation and focus.

And so anytime you’re taking money out of a healthcare system, And giving it to someone else, you’re taking that money away from the ability of that organization to put it back into their community. And you know, some of it’s necessary. Every time you pay a doctor’s salary, you’re taking money out of one thing, but you’re putting it towards the same goal, which is to hire a doctor to help fund medical care in the community.

So anytime there’s a loss, that’s not. directly related to patient care, that’s dollars out of the community. So in a way, you’re punishing the community much more than you’re punishing who you think you’re punishing. And ultimately, you know, for a lot of the larger institutions, they’re the ones who absorb the people that can least afford to pay, right?

They’re not the concierge medicine practice that says, well, I’m only taking people who can privately pay and who can pay [00:12:00] privately and we don’t take insurance. The bigger organizations are usually the one that. are most committed to taking the most sick and the most vulnerable. So it really does have a huge impact on the community and the ability to provide care in the community.

When you see awards like this, it seems certain to me, at least from the beginning that this case was going to be headed for appeal, given the enormity of both the verdict and the consequences for mandatory reporting. If this verdict stands following his decision not to grant the defense’s request for a new trial, judge Hunter Carroll required the parties to take the interim step of going to mediation.

This seemed bizarre to me. Why would these parties who’ve been embroiled in a bitter years long legal battle and have just wrapped up a seven week nationally televised trial suddenly be able to sit down and work it out? Those proceedings were confidential, but Ethan told me that the mediation did take [00:13:00] place in April of this year.

And no agreement was reached.

Interestingly, you may remember that a couple of episodes back, I mentioned that the Kowalskis were planning to appear at CrimeCon this year, along with their lawyer Nick Whitney and Caitlin Keating from the film. But as of this recording, they appeared to have pulled out. And while I want to emphasize that this is pure speculation on my part, I have to imagine that the fact that they signed up to do it in the first place, along with their lawyer, meant that they felt pretty good about their chances of this not going to appeal, which I have to say surprises me, though maybe it shouldn’t.

And again, this is all just a guess. So, again, obviously, I feel strongly that this is a verdict that should be overturned, because this is going to have huge impacts on millions of other vulnerable kids, but [00:14:00] I just want to say that I really feel for Maya and Kyle in this situation, because This lawsuit has dragged on through their entire formative teenage years.

I mean, they’re still really young. You know, Maya just turned 18. Kyle is still underage. And I feel like there’s a good chance that they really thought, and that the adults in their lives were telling them, that it was over when this verdict happened. And the idea that they’ve now just learned that they’re still going to be doing this for the next several years is just devastating.

And I just, as a parent, even if I felt really strongly about being in the right, I cannot imagine dragging my kids through something like this. These two have had to relive the worst events of their life over and over and over again [00:15:00] for years. And just thinking about how much time that is when you’re a young person to spend six or seven, now maybe eight or nine years on something.

It’s so brutal. I don’t think there’s an amount of money that would make it worth that. I just don’t. Ethan shared with us. What’s likely to come next? There’s really two questions on the appeal. The first is what will be involved in it and how long it will take, right? So the first question is, we’re sorting through that.

I mean, the record on appeal is huge. This is weeks and weeks and weeks of trial. There are a lot of issues that we think that we’re entitled to appellate review on. The most obvious ones are not going to be a surprise to reviewers, you know, and that’s mandatory reporting, immunity. Did we get the immunity that we believe the legislature promised mandatory reporters when they told healthcare providers, if you don’t report a reasonable suspicion of abuse, we’re going to charge you with felonies.[00:16:00]

Did we get the extent of the protection of that law? That’s obviously going to be front and center of an appeal. And that’s not a surprise to anybody. There’s a number of other evidentiary rulings that went on during trial, what the jury was allowed to see, what they weren’t allowed to see. And we’re certainly sorting through that.

Because at some point we have to narrow down appellate issues to the handful that really matter. We can’t go into the appellate court and just say, here’s 91 things that they got wrong in our opinion. In terms of the timeframe, I think you’re going to see our appellate brief in the coming weeks, two months, whether that’s a month or two or three.

Depends on a few factors in terms of getting the record and then you’ll see the plaintiff respond to that in writing and then we will have a chance to respond to the plaintiff’s response. I anticipate the court’s going to hold the oral argument on that. When that will be will be after the briefing schedule.

So several months from now. And then we’ll get a ruling from the appellate court. So then after the ruling from the appellate court, then it’s sort of like choose your own adventure. What comes next in terms of like, [00:17:00] does the appellate court make a final ruling at that point, overturning the verdict or not overturning the verdict?

Or is there sort of a, what’s the sort of spectrum of options that can happen at that point? Essentially there are three spectrums of options. One is the court can say, everything that went on in the trial was fine, right? Or didn’t meet the level of error, right? That the judge didn’t make an error and there was no error that fundamentally threw the trial off to the prejudice of my client and say, this is all affirmed.

And the second option would be the court could say the judge in the court got some of this right, and there’s error in other parts. And at that point they could say, you know, we’re affirming the judgment in part and reversing it in part. Or the court could say, we think there’s enough that went wrong that we’re ordering an entire new trial.

Or the court could say, we think that there’s enough that went wrong on part of it and order a new trial on part of it. So this gave you no clarity, [00:18:00] Andrea, but you know, the short answer is the appellate court could do anything from saying this is fine and we affirm it to let’s start over. And when we start over, we’re going to start over under a different set of rules.

For example, they could say, we don’t believe that you can hold a mandatory reporter liable for someone’s suicide. So when we retry this case, we’re going to try it without that allegation. That’s Okay, so it could be a very different looking retrial, correct? It could be a completely different look, what could be alleged, what could be responded to.

And that’s all within the discretion of the appellate court. Okay. So. Retrial. Does that look like I feel like it’s like sort of a boneheaded sounding question, but I mean, does that look like literally everyone’s coming back into court? We’re doing opening arguments. We’re doing all the things it court TV like the whole is it like retrial [00:19:00] retrial or is it some sort of more like or it just depends.

It depends on what the appellate court decides. Yeah, it depends what the appellate court decides. But one of the options is a complete retrial. New jury. New opening argument, new everything with some guidance from the appellate court about what you can say in this. Retrial and what you can’t, or it could be, we’re just going to retry these issues.

They have the discretion to do that as well.

It’s very interesting to me, sort of watching how the public has metabolized the story in this case. And because I hear from some folks with their thoughts, many folks about this, you know, that there is this idea that like, Okay, this has played out in court. This is a verdict. This is over, right? And in fact, that’s not the way the justice system works.

And it can take a really long time for these things to all shake out. And in the meantime, I mean, what [00:20:00] have you seen? Obviously, this is extremely high profile verdict. This is the most high profile, I’ve ever seen. This Medical child abuse related case I’ve seen played out. I mean, I think this, like, Justina Pelletier was a huge one and this completely dwarfed it in terms of media coverage.

How are you seeing this play out in terms of possibly inspiring, like, similar lawsuits from other parents who’ve been accused or even convicted of abuse? I mean, there’s been some that have made the news in terms of subsequent lawsuits, but I think the bigger issue and even one that surprised me, you know, if you’ve seen some of my interviews and you’ve been kind enough to have me on your show before we talked about our fear of the chilling effect, I will tell you, this has been devastation to the mandatory reporting industry.

It’s fear, right? You know, for sure. Um, Years, mandatory reporters operated under the assumption that if they participated in the process that they would have immunity for their participation, and now there’s a lot of open questions. [00:21:00] Right? And this isn’t to try to disparage what the court did or did not do.

It’s just addressing the legal landscape that mandatory reporters promise. are wrestling with the question that if I have a reasonable suspicion of abuse and neglect, and I call in that reasonable suspicion, what if I’m wrong? Can I be sued for that? And can my name be in the paper? Can I be the subject of the intimidation and harassment that some of my clients were?

Can I be called into question for that? And am I exposing my hospital whose mission is to provide for the sickest? And the most vulnerable in the community to wiping out their assets and destroying that mission. And of course that happened, right, Andrea? I mean, how, how could you I mean, like the answer is yes, right?

I mean, we’re, we’re not even, that’s not a question anymore. That’s, yes, they, they can, obviously. Right. And so far it’s been allowed to happen here. Right. And you know, if you are right, a doctor or a nurse and a child comes into your hospital with unexplained [00:22:00] bruises or a child comes into the hospital with, you know, something that you think may be signs of sexual abuse, but you’re not sure the law requires you to say something in the way the law should work is that is then up to the state, a whole separate entity to decide whether there’s any merit to that.

Right. My client. Was brought to court with those questions brought in front of a jury and until that issue is resolved There’s a lot of opening the questions about where immunity starts and finishes and as long as those questions are open It’s not a chilling effect. It’s a freezing effect.

I need people to hear this This case goes so far beyond what did or did not happen in the Kowalski case. It is right now Hamstringing the ability of doctors to protect kids Not just for medical child abuse, but from all forms of abuse. [00:23:00] In several of her interviews, Take Care of Maya’s producer, Caitlin Keating, positioned the film as a clarion call for necessary change to the system.

Is this what she meant? By the way, thus far, neither she nor any of the film’s representative have answered my request for comments. But that’s an open invitation, if anyone feels like speaking up. You said you wanted change. Is this the change you wanted? Because it’s the change you helped create. The issue of mandatory reporting is complicated, but the reality is we count on people who work with children to help us protect them.

And if they can now be taken to court for reporting their suspicions, something they’re currently federally required to do, what do we expect them to do? And furthermore, with this medical kidnapping narrative gaining steam, hospitals can now be on the hook for following a court’s shelter care orders. So it seems to me that this is a really [00:24:00] impossible position to put hospitals and individual doctors in where you’re saying that they’re culpable of a federal crime for not reporting if they’re is reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused.

And then you’re also saying that if they do report, then they can be subject to legal action from the parents of that child. And I mean that, how do you even advise as a lawyer? It’s definitely a gray area in the legal system. And one of the problems that’s very unique to hospitals is, as you saw in the Kowalski case, that once a court That was not part of any action that all children’s was involved in.

But once a court reviewing the evidence that DCF provided through Sally Smith and decided that Maya was safer at the hospital and with her family, the hospital can’t discharge the child. So now we’re stuck in a situation where the family’s higher. is uniquely directed at the hospital as the person who’s the entity that’s [00:25:00] caring for the child.

And Andrea, there’s no backup system of wonderful foster parents that are lined up to take these children, especially with children with unique, complex medical issues. Someone like Maya that hadn’t walked in over a year before she came to my client and needed medical attention of some kind. There’s just no situation.

So now hospitals are in a unique situation that if you call the abuse hotline, the court may decide with or without your input to leave the child there and expose you to additional liability while that system plays out. It’s worth saying that this is not specific to medical child abuse in any way, right?

This is also cases of abusive head trauma and other physical abuse or child sex abuse, like any abuse that gets called in if there’s a shelter order. Hospitals legally required to keep that child there, right? Well, and think about in this opioid epidemic, all the children born, unfortunately, to addicted mothers who are born with drug withdrawal.

[00:26:00] And, you know, the one thing we’ve seen or I’ve learned from this is a lot of this is really under the radar in society. We don’t see it, you know, people who walk around every day, people in the healthcare industry do, especially those taking care of children, invulnerable children. But what do you do when the court says we have a suspicion that a child is born to a mom that’s not able to take care of her because of drug addiction and how long is the child going to be at your hospital for while that legal proceeding goes forward?

And are you subject to liability for something while the child’s under your care in a volatile situation? There’s no good advice in this landscape. Other than to try to seek clarification and to continue to provide the best medical care possible while put in that very difficult spot. I think something that people make as an argument a lot that is to my mind, if they actually know the facts of the case, like a very much a strawman argument is this sort of like, well, [00:27:00] you know, these systems are really broken and yeah, they are, I mean, and no doubt, like, I don’t want to see, you know, especially in that case that you mentioned, like, a child born with addiction issues because their mom has addiction issues also.

Like, I think there are better ways to handle things than we handle them currently with many, many aspects of child removal. And these are very complicated issues that have lots of intersections with poverty and race and, you know, the opioid epidemic and all kinds of things, right? And so neither of us are arguing for Oh, just always take the kids away and keep the kids away.

But that’s not the job of medical providers to decide. They are intertwined with that system, but they are not the sort of judge, jury, and executioner in child custody cases. And I think they’re being painted as that right now. And I think, yeah, both you and I have an appreciation for that sort of unique position that those professionals are in.

And I do think, you know, as I’ve looked at how [00:28:00] this case has been portrayed in the media, and it seems to be by and large portrayed as this was a family that got a just verdict and this poor family. And of course, that has a lot to do with the Netflix film and then all of the other sort of like, in my mind, way too credulous media coverage.

And I think people Don’t quite understand the consequences and I also have begun to suspect that there’s something on a sort of bigger level where this ties into sort of the parents rights conversation. And the way I see this playing out in some other places like Lehigh and in this coverage where they’re also talking about things like abusive head trauma, which is, you know, Way less complicated and confusing than medical child abuse cases.

You know, this is something that 95 percent of the medical establishment accepts is a real phenomenon. It’s a real form of abuse that Children suffer from. And so you have this landscape that I’m very concerned about because. At first, I think when I saw the verdict, I thought, [00:29:00] well, people don’t understand what the consequences of this is going to be.

This is going to kill mandatory reporting. And now I’m starting to think that for a lot of the people who are really fervent supporters, not just people that watch

the Netflix film and sort of passively, you know, empathize with the family and like, but the people that are really getting behind this stuff, the people that are organizing in Lehigh, Pennsylvania, the people that are really pushing this in the media.

Yeah. That is actually the point. That’s what they want. So it’s not an unintended consequence. It’s the point. What they want It’s to take us back to pre 1960s America, where children were considered the property of their parents that they could do with what they wished. They want to be able to bring those children in the hospital when they mess them up, fix them up, send them home, end of story.

And that is so scary. And I think people really need to understand if you are getting behind this verdict, if you are getting behind this issue and what is [00:30:00] happening in like Lehigh and in these other lawsuits. That’s what you’re advocating for because I see a lot of sort of soft language from some of the people involved.

There’s a lot of talk about that, like, yeah, this is pushing against a bad system. And like, the change this is pushing for is getting rid of mandatory reporting. So if that’s a change you want, you’re entitled to your opinion. Sure, but like, this is not about fixing the problems with the system, because this is not a problem that needs to be fixed.

This is about getting rid of, you know, 50 plus years of progress. There are a lot of people who cheerleaded this verdict, who sees the destruction of mandatory reporting as a feature, not a bug of the verdict. You know, I’m not saying that’s everybody. Like you said, there’s some people that are passive watchers.

I’m certainly not even saying the Kowalskis want to do that. I’m not here to question their motivations, but there’s no doubt that we saw that with the protesters outside the courthouse. And we continue to see it from the people who are fervent advocates. [00:31:00] They do not believe in mandatory reporting. They definitely do not believe in immunity for mandatory reporters, and they would like to see the destruction of the system.

And again, I’m a big believer that there are many parts of this system of child welfare in the United States that are flawed, that need to be reformed, perhaps some that need to be just start back from zero. You know, too often, children are abused and no one does speak up, or the people who speak up, it leads to nothing.

And now we’re setting up a situation where it’s not going to, it’s going to lead to worse than nothing, right? It’s going to lead to that person being punished and made an example of, and that’s so horrifying. And, you know, I think just back to sort of the size of the verdict, something that I think about as sort of a counterpoint to this case, a lot is the Olivia Gantt case, which is a case where a six year old child died after she was sent home with her mother to hospice care that she did not need because they She was not actually [00:32:00] sick.

The hospital suspected and they did not report in that case. And the grandparents eventually figured out that this had been a case of medical child abuse and they sued the hospital. They settled out of court, but I think the original number on the lawsuit was something like 25 million. And I look at that number versus 200 plus million.

And I just think, boy, I really don’t want someone sitting doing the math and saying, It’s cheaper to let the kid die. And there were cases in Florida where DCF was sued for non intervening for similar money. The only thing I can tell you is that the people who I represent, they’re willing to put their necks out on the line for this, but we definitely need clarity from You know, the law in general about where the immunity starts and what their protections are so that they can operate within the bounds of the law while doing what their mission is, which is to protect the most vulnerable children in our community.

I want to point out that there are extremely valid and salient criticisms of mandatory [00:33:00] reporting laws and their potential to do harm. Namely, because, as I discussed at length with Dr. Jessica Price, an earlier guest on this season, they often end up ensnaring families struggling with poverty, disproportionately Black and Brown families, under the wide auspice of neglect suspicions, which account for 76 percent of child removals each year.

There are certainly better ways to help these families, and I have a wonderful expert coming in soon to discuss some of those strategies in an upcoming episode. But, those families are not being represented by this case, nor in Daphne Chen’s work, or Mike Hicksenbaugh’s, or any of the other media outlets that are stoking the medical kidnapping panic.

Because if you’re holding up cases like Jon Stewart, and Viviana Graham, and my sister Megan Carter, as examples of false accusations. You’re not making a case to end two broad [00:34:00] mandatory reporting laws, you’re advocating, I believe, to end all mandatory reporting and, importantly, to end immunity for those who do report, whether you’re willing to say the quiet part out loud or not.

As those of you who listen to the subscriber episodes know, I’ve been digging into the Justina Pelletier case as of late. This was a Connecticut family who

tried, unsuccessfully in their case, to sue Boston Children’s Hospital under extremely similar circumstances. That case began almost 10 years ago. So this issue doesn’t begin and end with the Kowalskis, but this case is a massive turning point one way or the other.

And while I remain anxious about the eventual outcome, I’m glad to know that the hospital isn’t giving up. [00:35:00] We’re at a point in the litigation where, you know, there’s still a lot of work to do. And, you know, as I’ve told you over the last 45 minutes and since we’ve met, we won’t stop fighting on behalf of my client as long as my client is fighting for abused and vulnerable children and their rights as mandatory reporters.

To oversee that process. So you’ll certainly see some more legal work coming from my client and we remain a very committed to seeing this through the end of the judicial process.

Next time on nobody should believe me. There’s something really curious going on, which is if somebody accused of sexual abuse or rape says they didn’t do it, we don’t then say, well, they didn’t do it, they denied it. Therefore, they didn’t do it, but there’s something about medical child abuse, and this arose in this report where just because the parents said they didn’t do it, that’s proof that they didn’t.

[00:36:00] And every bit of the report relies on that misbelief.

This episode was written and produced by me, Andrea Dunlop. Our sound engineering and mixing was provided by Andrew Kindred. Thanks to Nola Carmouche for additional support and also to Cadence3 where this episode was recorded.

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