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Other High-Profile Cases of Wrongful Allegations

Medically-based wrongful allegations of abuse are not isolated or rare. While the Florida Kowalski case gained national attention, the reality is that similar cases are constantly unfolding at children’s hospitals across the country. The spotlight on troubling state and national child abuse pediatric practices has intensified, propelled by a growing number of recent media reports, films, lawsuits, and even a Pennsylvania County Auditor General’s report. States implicated in these reported accounts of Child Abuse Pediatric (CAP) practices encompass Alaska, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington State, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, underscoring the widespread nature of this concerning issue:

  1. Krueger v. Petrak, 02 CV 01016 (C.D. Ill., 2022) is a pending federal civil rights suit in Illinois that alleges vindictive claim of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy levied by child abuse pediatrician, Channing Petrak, following argument with parents and retaliatory reversal of opinion in favor of parents’ innocence where the child had a documented genetic disorder. Read After a False Abuse Allegation, Child Services Took This Mom's 3 Children Away and Take Care of Maya Verdict Could Help Mom Who Lost Kids After False Diagnosis

  2. Esteverne v. Essernio-Jensenn, 581 F. Supp. 2d 335 (EDNY 2008) is a case alleging a long history of misconduct by child abuse pediatrician Debra Essernio-Jensenn, who is also a primary subject of the Lehigh County Auditor General Report cited below; V.S.S. v. Essernio-Jensenn, 581 F. Supp. 2d 265 (EDNY 2008) cites a second instance of Dr. Essernio-Jennsen misdiagnosing child abuse. 

  3. Acker v. Providence Health & Services Washington (4:22-cv-00017, D. Alaska, 2022) (federal suit against child abuse pediatrician Dr. Barbara Knox). See articles describing history of her firing in Wisconsin, hiring in Alaska, and subsequent firing there following complaints of continuing misconduct similar to prior Wisconsin reports: Two Couples Sue Former UW Child Abuse Doctor for Alleged Misdiagnoses and Two Alaska Families File Federal Lawsuit Against Embattled Child Abuse Doctor, Providence Alleging Child Abuse Misdiagnoses

  4. Jennifer Del Prete v. Village of Romeoville, et al., #17-cv-06145 (federal civil rights case alleging that lead child abuse pediatrician Emalee Flaherty “authored report with fabricated scientific findings” and withheld exculpatory evidence leading to the 12-year-long prison sentence that was later vacated). See Woman previously freed by Medill Justice Project investigation to sue alleged conspirators (the case was dismissed on absolute immunity grounds; no finding as to the factual merit of the claims against Dr. Flaherty). 

  5. Pond et al. v. Woods and State Agents, (3:22-cv-05849, W.D. Wa. 2022) (Federal lawsuit in Washington State against Dr. Elizabeth Woods). See articles: Former Tacoma hospital director sued over handling of child-abuse cases as state expertTacoma doctor removed from expert role in diagnosing child abuse amid questions about her credibility, and When child abuse is a misdiagnosis: WA doctor pushes back on questionable cases (September 2023) 

  6. Cox and Dobrozsi v. The Medical College of Wisconsin et al, 2:2022 cv 00553, 651 F. Supp. 3d 965, E.D. Wisc. 2023 sustains claims of conspiracy between child abuse pediatrician, Lynn Sheets, and state authorities to deprive doctors & parents—who were employed at the same hospital—of their civil rights. See also 'Out of Control' Child Abuse Docs..., alleging “climate of fear” among fellow doctors at Milwaukee children’s hospital due to actions against Dr. Cox. 

  7. “Do No Harm Series” articles and podcast by Journalist Mike Hixenbaugh, published by NBC News and the Houston Chronicle, reviews multiple cases of alleged misconduct & poor practice especially by child abuse pediatricians working out of the Texas Children's Hospital, which is home to one of the largest working groups of child abuse pediatricians in the country.

  8. Lehigh County Pennsylvania Auditor General Report presents dozens of cases of overreaching and cruel mistreatment of families. (See in the news: Lehigh County controller, parents blast child-abuse system over potential misdiagnoses.) Additionally, in February of 2023, over a dozen families sued a Lehigh Valley child abuse pediatrician, Dr. Esernio-Jenssen, citing false allegations of child abuse. (See also: Lehigh County controller calls for third-party investigation into ‘cover-up’ of his child abuse report)

  9. “When the Misdiagnosis is Child Abuse” by Stephanie Clifford for The Atlantic in August, 2020 is an article delving into heartbreaking cases where families experienced dramatic upheavals after child-abuse pediatricians played a pivotal role in wrongly separating their families.

  10. Interview with Dr. Eli Newberger, the “Founding Father of Child Abuse Pediatrics,” discussing the Kowalski case, documenting concerns regarding the direction of child abuse pediatrics, and outlining why the field of child abuse pediatrics should have instead been named “forensic pediatrics” from the very start.

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