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Class counsel were seeking 35 percent of the $190 million settlement with the Johns Hopkins Hospital System, announced in July by (from left) Jonathan Schochor and Howard Janet.

Former Levy patients file objections to $190M settlement

More than two dozen patients of former Johns Hopkins Hospital gynecologist Nikita Levy have objected to the $190 million settlement of the class-action accusing him of secretly recording them.

Three objections have been filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, including one by a patient representing herself.

In another filing, 25 objectors allege the settlement, announced in July, creates “an excessive legal fee” for the class-action lawyers and that its terms provide no guidelines to allow plaintiffs to figure out how much they would recover, according to the court filing.

“It’s all a matter of fairness,” said Paul D. Bekman, a lawyer for the group of 25 objectors.

A third objection was filed by Baltimore solo practitioner Barry J. Diamond on behalf of an unidentified patient, bringing the total to 27 objectors. The potential class size has been estimated in the thousands by class counsel from the law firms of Schochor, Federico and Staton P.A. and Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC.

The case was declared a mandatory class-action last November, meaning prospective plaintiffs cannot opt out and sue on their own.

The patients represented by Bekman retained his firm, Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins LLC in Baltimore, before the class action was certified. They have all registered with the class in order to file their objection, and Salsbury Clements is representing them on a contingency basis, according to Bekman.

The settlement notice indicates the class counsel plan to request a legal fee of up to 35 percent of the total, according to the objection.

“Plaintiffs respect the achievement of Class Counsel who are entitled to a fair and reasonable legal fee,” the objection states. “However, a fair legal fee must take into account the preexisting contractual obligations of the Plaintiffs to pay private counsel which, so far, has not been taken into account.”

To determine how the settlement money will be divided among Levy’s patients, the class lawyers have said each plaintiff will be evaluated by a forensic psychologist and then placed in one of four categories for damages.

The objectors claim the settlement agreement does not specific a high and low range for each category.

“Therefore, claimants have no ability to assess the fairness and reasonableness of the likely recovery to which they may be entitled,” Bekman’s objection states.

Separately, the objection filed by Diamond calls the 35 percent fee “extraordinarily unreasonable,” noting the class-action has been pending for less than 18 months, almost all of it in “settlement mode.”

“In light of the very early mutual interest of both the Johns Hopkins Defendants and Class Counsel to wrap all claims into one mandatory take-it-or-leave-it settlement, Class Counsel have undertaken no litigation risk beyond simply rushing to the courthouse to file a complaint,” Diamond’s filing states.

Diamond’s objection does not seek to halt court approval of the settlement, only extra time to review the fee petition. If the forensic psychologist were to spend an hour with each member of the plaintiff class, it would take the expert several years to speak to everyone, the objection notes.

“Because it will be years before any Class Member will receive any benefit from the Settlement, Class Counsel can hardly claim prejudice from a month delay in their bid to receive as much as $66.5 million of the Class’s money,” Diamond wrote.

He declined to comment on the motion because the matter is pending.

Jonathan Schochor, chairman of the class-action legal team, did not respond to a request for comment. Howard A. Janet, the vice chairman, declined to comment because the litigation is pending.

Levy worked at Hopkins from 1988 until Feb. 8, 2013, when the hospital terminated his employment after being alerted to his possible misconduct. Police found 10 file servers’ worth of photos and videos among his possessions. Schochor has said all of the images will be destroyed.

Levy committed suicide less than two weeks after he was fired and days before two groups totaling 2,500 women filed multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuits against the hospital over his conduct.

About 3,800 women were identified as victims of Levy’s at the time of class certification; class counsel have said that total could be as high as 8,000.

The proposed settlement was given preliminary approval on July 21. Donald L. DeVries Jr., an attorney for Hopkins, said at the time that Levy’s actions were a “colossal breach of trust to his patients and to Hopkins.”

Objections to the settlement were due last Friday under the terms of the settlement agreement. A motion for final approval of the settlement is due Sept. 12, one week before the fairness hearing is scheduled before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Sylvester B. Cox.

Former patients of Levy’s who still have not registered to be part of the settlement can do so through Nov. 14.