$190 million settlement in US genital images case, but women must show trauma to get money

The Associated Press
July 25, 2014 04:47 PM

This photo taken July 8, 2014, shows the East Baltimore Medical Center, a community practice affiliated with Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins Hospital has agreed to a $190 million settlement with more than 8,000 patients of Dr. Nikita Levy, a gynecologist who secretly photographed and videotaped women's bodies in the examining room with a pen-like camera he wore around his neck, lawyers said Monday, July 21, 2014. Levy was working at the East Baltimore Medical Center when the allegations came to light. (AP Photo)

BALTIMORE - Thousands of U.S. women whose genitals might have been photographed during gynecological exams can share a $190 million settlement from Johns Hopkins Health System. But they'll have to describe their trauma before seeing any money.

Dr. Nikita Levy killed himself in February 2013 after being caught with hundreds of pelvis pictures.

As many as 8,000 women and girls already have joined the class action lawsuit. News of the huge settlement filed Monday may encourage more of the 12,600 patients Levy saw during his 25 years at Hopkins to sign up as well.

One woman who contacted The Associated Press seeking to join couldn't remember Levy, but said she would try for the money.

"I could have been a victim, and if I was, he should have to pay for what he did and the hospital should have been more aware of what was going on at the facility," the woman said. The AP does not usually identify possible victims of sex crimes.

Investigators found 1,200 videos and 140 images on Levy's home computers, which they believe he secretly took with tiny cameras during exams. But none were linked to any particular patient, and none were shared. Levy killed himself without explaining himself or pointing to any victims.

What comes next depends on each woman's perception of her suffering.

The eight law firms involved told plaintiffs they could ask for as much as 35 per cent to cover costs, leaving $123.5 million in an interest-bearing account until each woman's claim is resolved.

But it won't be divided equally. Some women who also reported being sexually abused by the doctor presumably would be entitled to much more. Others who shook off their trauma might get nothing.

"Every woman qualifies for the suit, but they have to have been damaged," said the class-action's lead attorney, Jonathan Schochor. "If they suffered no damages, it's the same as driving through a stop sign and not hitting anybody."

Levy was fired in February 2013, after a female co-worker alerted hospital security to the tiny pen camera he wore around his neck.

Each woman seeking money must fill out a questionnaire and be interviewed by a team of forensic psychiatrists, post-traumatic stress specialists and attorneys.

The women must describe how much time they spent with Levy, whether a nurse was present, and any sexual, verbal or physical abuse. Emotions count, including physical manifestations of stress such as nausea, anxiety and nightmares. Circumstantial factors include whether a woman has a history of sexual abuse or violence, and whether her health care has suffered.

"It's going to be kind of messy, but we cope with it" in class action settlements, said Geoffrey Hazard, an ethics expert at Hastings School of Law in San Francisco who is not involved in the case.


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