Patients file objection to $190 million Levy settlement

In filing, plaintiffs cite 'excessive legal fee,' ambiguity in Hopkins payout

  • Dr. Nikita Levy
Dr. Nikita Levy (Baltimore Sun )
September 04, 2014|By Colin Campbell, The Baltimore Sun

More than two dozen of Dr. Nikita Levy's former patients have filed an objection to a $190 million class-action settlement over the Johns Hopkins gynecologist's malpractice.

The plaintiffs cited an "excessive legal fee" requested by the lawyers who negotiated the settlement and a lack of clarity regarding the amount each patient would receive, according to the objection.

The settlement — one of the largest ever of its kind — was announced in July, five months after investigators found more than 1,300 videos and images, surreptitiously recorded during pelvic exams, in Levy's home and office. The gynecologist, who practiced in the Johns Hopkins Medical System for 25 years, killed himself during the investigation. Just days later, his patients sued the hospital for millions.

Baltimore firms Schochor, Federico and Station, P.A., and Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC are representing the patients in the class-action settlement. The objection claimed they had planned to request a legal fee of 35 percent.

Lawyers in a $123 million settlement of a similar case involving a Delaware pediatrician recording hundreds of children received legal fees of 22.5 percent in 2012.

"Plaintiffs respect the achievement of Class Counsel who are entitled to a fair and reasonable legal fee," the court filing said. "However, a fair legal fee must take into account the pre-existing contractual obligations of the Plaintiffs to pay private counsel which so far, has not been taken into account."

The settlement grouped the plaintiffs into four categories, but it failed to specify the range of money each group could receive, the objection said.

"Therefore, claimants have no ability to assess the fairness and reasonableness of the likely recovery to which they may be entitled," it said.

The objection was filed last week on behalf of 25 of Levy's former patients by Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins, LLC, also of Baltimore. The firm did not respond on Thursday to requests for comment.

More than 8,000 patients could have a claim in the case, plaintiff's attorneys have estimated, but because the women could not be identified from the images, all former patients could be considered victims.

The objection included a handwritten letter from a woman who wrote that Levy had "ruined my life." She listed resulting trauma symptoms, including anxiety and depression that she said led her to drink and cut herself.

"He took my trust in doctors. ... He took my sanity, and he took my happiness," she wrote, later adding, "They could keep [the settlement money if] they could give me back what he [has] stolen from me."

If they have not done so already, former patients of Levy may register to be part of the settlement until Nov. 14. Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester B. Cox will oversee a fairness hearing on the settlement Sept. 19.

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