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Lead attorneys Jonathan Schochor, center, and Howard Janet, to his right, discuss the judge’s approval Sept. 19 of the $190 million settlement between former patients of Dr. Nikita Levy and Johns Hopkins Hospital. The lawyers are surrounded by co-counsel and plaintiffs, including Rochelle McBride, second from right, after Friday’s hearing. (The Daily Record/Danny Jacobs)

Levy patients’ settlement with Hopkins clears fairness hearing

Rochelle McBride saw an OB-GYN recently for the first time in a year. It was a female doctor, one she only saw because her late mother was also a patient.

“You get this anxiety to be seen,” McBride said Friday afternoon.

McBride, once a patient of former gynecologist Nikita Levy, is one of more than 8,000 plaintiffs who will share in a $190 million settlement with the Johns Hopkins Hospital System that was approved Friday afternoon by a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge.

The money will be transferred to an interest-bearing account in approximately six weeks, or 14 days after the appeals period has expired. Each plaintiff will be evaluated by a forensic psychologist and placed in one of four categories, which will be used to divide the money. It is believed to be the highest amount of compensation ever in a single-perpetrator sexual abuse case in the U.S.

The plaintiffs lawyers’ said following the hearing they hoped their clients could see the money in a year’s time.

“Today, with this final approval, our victims can start to move forward,” said Jonathan Schochor of Schochor, Federico and Staton P.A. in Baltimore, chairman of the team of lawyers representing the class.

Ultimately, about 15 objections were filed by or on behalf of former patients, Judge Sylvester B. Cox said during the fairness hearing on the propriety of the settlement. At least one, filed by the law firm of Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins LLC, involved more than two dozen individuals.

Cox called the objections he read from individual plaintiffs “gut-wrenching” but not persuasive. The judge noted Hopkins could have defended this case “right on down the line” through dispositive motions and knocked out a significant number of plaintiffs on statute of limitations grounds.

“The bringing to public light of Dr. Levy’s actions probably shocked the conscience of the community,” Cox said. “It definitely shocked the conscience of his patients.”

Several objections to the settlement are based on attorneys’ fees, which will be the subject of a separate hearing before Cox on Oct. 2.

Schochor said after the hearing that the class counsel — a group of eight firms — will seek the maximum 35 percent of the total settlement provided for in a settlement notice sent out to prospective plaintiffs.

Howard A. Janet of Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC in Baltimore, serves as vice-chairman of the legal team. The other law firms involved are Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore; Cardaro & Peek LLC in Baltimore; Wais, Vogelstein & Forman, LLC in Pikesville; The Law Office of A. Dwight Pettit P.A. in Baltimore; The Law Office of Snyder & Snyder in Pikesville; and The Cochran Firm in Washington, D.C.

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.

The settlement was given preliminary approval in July. Individuals have until Nov. 14 to identify themselves as members of the class.

Since the suit was made a mandatory class action, people who do not participate in the settlement will not be able to sue separately.

Donald L. DeVries Jr., a lawyer for Hopkins, said in court Friday the settlement balances the harm suffered by Levy’s patients with Hopkins’ ability to continue serve the community. The settlement will be paid through insurance.

“It is Hopkins’ sincere hope that this settlement, and law enforcement’s finding that Dr. Levy did not distribute the images, will bring some type of closure to the plaintiffs,” said DeVries, of Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann LLP in Baltimore.

McBride, one of Levy’s patients, wasn’t so sure. She had stopped seeing Levy after 10 years because of inappropriate comments he made during examinations. She was angry when news of Levy filming patients came out and has since felt embarrassed and devastated.

While McBride appreciates the work of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, she said the settlement does not compensate for the emotional damage.

“I’m glad it’s over, but for a lot of people it’s not over,” she said. “It’s going to take time.”