Hell hath no fury like a lawyer threatened with the loss of attorneys’ fees.
The leaders of the class counsel representing former patients of Nikita Levy launched a vehement and blistering counterattack Thursday against an objection to their request for 35 percent of the $190 million settlement with the Johns Hopkins Hospital System.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Sylvester Cox, who approved the settlement last month, said he would rule as soon as possible on the fees.
Levy, a former gynecologist at Johns Hopkins, took photos and videos of his patients during exams without their knowledge.
Baltimore solo practitioner Barry J. Diamond argued in court filings and in court that class counsel “placed themselves in irreconcilable conflicts” by preferring their 4,000 direct clients over the entire plaintiff class and that the fee was “unreasonable.”
Jonathan Schochor, chairman of the class counsel, repeatedly referred to Diamond as “the lone lawyer objector” to the fees and apologized to the judge for having to rehash particulars of the case.
“He simply has no idea what we accomplished and what we did to accomplish it,” said Schochor, of Schochor, Federico and Staton P.A. in Baltimore.
Howard A. Janet, vice chairman of the class counsel, repeatedly questioned Diamond’s credibility and pointed out several instances where he said Diamond’s argument in court contradicted what was in his court filings.
“This whole objection is based on a fantasy world this gentleman created,” said Janet, of Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC in Pikesville. “He is not an opportunistic objector. He is an opportunistic objector wannabe.”
Schochor and Janet asked Cox to focus particularly on the result of the case in determining appropriate fees. The lawyers noted they took a case very few thought was winnable and were able to reach a settlement in the litigation in 20 months, knowing the amount of money available for their clients would continue to shrink if the case continued on. That’s because Hopkins’ insurance, which paid for the settlement, is operated under what is known as a “wasting policy,” meaning defense costs come out of the available insurance.
“If we didn’t settle, thousands of our clients risked receiving little to nothing,” Schochor said.
Diamond, for his part, said he was not implying any wrongdoing by the eight firms that acted as class counsel, but is only trying to obtain more money for Levy’s victims. He argued class counsel was treating the case as a mass action and attempting to obtain a contingency fee.
“You’re not entitled to a windfall,” Diamond said.
The class counsel had indicated they could seek up to 35 percent of the total settlement in a notice sent out to prospective plaintiffs, estimated at between 8,000 and 9,000 women.
The case was declared a mandatory class action last November, meaning prospective plaintiffs cannot opt out and sue on their own.
Class counsel are also seeking approximately $830,000 for expenses.
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.