Over 8,000 patients who agreed to be part of a class-action lawsuit against Johns Hopkins Hospital will receive $190 million as settlement. The legal action was brought against a gynecologist at Hopkins who performed unneeded pelvic examinations on women and secretly videotaped and took photos of others. Dr. Nikita Levy’s home was searched by police last year, who discovered videos and photos of patients that had been captured with small, hidden cameras placed inside of seemingly normal everyday objects. Levy committed suicide last year shortly after the discovery was made of his sexual misconduct.
The settlement of the suit was announced on Monday by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jonathan Schochor, and has been approved by the Baltimore City Circuit Court. A joint announcement with officials from Johns Hopkins and Schochor is expected to come today. Kim Hoppe, spokesperson for Hopkins, disclosed that officials with the hospital have been in discussions in order to reach a settlement since the fall of 2013. According to Hoppe, the settlement will be paid by insurance policies held by Hopkins.
Schochor estimates that 12,500 people were victims of Levy, who took pictures and videos of his patient’s bodies using a pen-like camera device worn around his neck while they were being examined . Although none of the victims’ faces were visible in the photos and videos taken, many of the women suffered emotional trauma when they learned of the violation. Lack of clear images of the women’s faces also meant that officials were not able to accurately determine the identity of the women and when the images were captured. In his statement, the attorney expressed hope that the community can “begin the process of healing.”
In order to determine how much money each victim will receive, the women were interviewed by specialists in order to determine the level of trauma they endured as a result of Levy’s misconduct. Some of the women reported that Levy had touched them inappropriately and abused them verbally. Others reported that Levy had ordered them to undergo unnecessary gynecological exams without an additional staff member present.
Levy graduated from the medical college at Cornell University and had been employed since 1988 at Hopkin’s East Baltimore Medical Center, a community clinic that mainly provides care to African-Americans and low-income families within the surrounding homes. Levy’s patients, many of whom had been seeing him for years, were stunned at the news that police were looking into his actions in the clinic, and even more shocked to learn of his death.
Levy’s violation of his patients was reported to the Hopkins security department on Feb. 4, 2013, by a co-worker. Hospital officials were able to verify that Levy had been secretly recording and photographing his patients within one day and demanded that he give them his camera. Baltimore police were notified and Levy was fired on Feb. 8. During their search of Levy’s home, police seized six pens containing cameras, two keychain fobs with cameras hidden inside of them and several external storage drives containing approximately 1,200 videos and 140 pictures of his unsuspecting victims. His body was discovered on Feb. 18 with a plastic bag filled with helium over his head. An apology note to his wife was also found at the scene. Levy was 54.
The settlement between Johns Hopkins and the victims of Dr. Nikita Levy is one of the largest ever recorded in the United States in cases where a doctor is found to have committed sexual misconduct towards his patients. Police and federal investigators have discovered nothing to indicate that Levy shared the secret recordings and photos with anyone else.
By Jennifer Pfalz