In a class-action settlement with more than 8,000 patients, Johns Hopkins Health System will pay $190 million in insurance funds to women whose pelvic exams may have been videotaped or photographed.
All of the plaintiffs were former patients of Dr. Nikita Levy, who committed suicide in February of 2013 after a colleague alerted authorities, suspecting the gynecologist was filming patients with a pen-like camera during examinations.
The settlement is one of the largest in U.S. history involving sexual misconduct by a physician.
“We have come to an agreement that the plaintiffs’ attorneys and Johns Hopkins Health System believe is fair and properly balances the concerns of thousands of plaintiffs with obligations the Health System has to provide ongoing and superior care to the community,” a press release published on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website stated.
Levy had been practicing at the Hopkins East Baltimore Medical Center before he was fired on Feb. 8, 2013. Prior to his termination, Baltimore Police and federal investigators found more than 1,200 videos and 140 images dating back to 2005 that were stored on servers in his home.
Investigators also confiscated two fobs and six pens that contained cameras. However, they did not find any evidence that Levy ever shared the photos and videos with others.
No criminal charges were filed because Levy committed suicide on Feb. 18, and the FBI and the Baltimore Police Department did not identify any co-conspirators.
“It is our hope that this settlement—and findings by law enforcement that images were not shared—helps those affected achieve a measure of closure,” the Johns Hopkins Medicine post stated.
Levy had been working in the Johns Hopkins Health System since 1988 and treated at least 12,600 patients throughout his tenure.
"Some of these women needed counseling, they were sleepless, they were dysfunctional in the workplace, they were dysfunctional at home, they were dysfunctional with their mates,” Jonathan Schochor, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said.
Levy only photographed and videotaped patients’ sexual organs; since no faces were visible in the footage, the identities or exact number of those affected could not be established.
However, some plaintiffs alleged that Levy had molested and verbally abused them or were called into his office for unnecessary pelvic exams. Levy also kept girls’ chaperones from entering the examination room, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Howard Janet.
The plaintiffs argued that the Hopkins Hospital was negligent for not discovering Levy’s behavior earlier.
The hospital’s attorney, Donald DeVries, said that Levy went “rogue” and that the hospital was completely unaware of the gynecologist’s behavior before his colleague’s report.
The settlement money will be allocated among the plaintiffs based on evaluations conducted by a post-traumatic stress specialist and a forensic psychologist. The payout for each plaintiff will be determined by evaluating the level of trauma each experienced as a result of Levy’s actions.
Schochor said that several of the plaintiffs no longer go to doctors’ offices or let their families receive medical treatment because of the trauma stemming from Levy’s actions.