Two former patients of Johns Hopkins gynecologist Dr. Nikita Levy filed lawsuits against him and his former employer Friday over concerns that he might have secretly photographed them, as a victims advocacy group joined lawyers in pressing for more information from an ongoing criminal inquiry.
Together, the complaints seek tens of millions of dollars in damages from Levy and Hopkins, with charges including negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. One also seeks to establish a class action; lawyers estimate that Levy treated about 1,000 patients over 25 years.
Attorneys said the actions seek to answer questions weighing on women who wonder whether they were surreptitiously recorded. Police and Hopkins have been reluctant to share details of the investigation, which was made public Monday after Levy was found dead in an apparent suicide in his Towson home.
Police said they are treating it as an open criminal investigation as they comb through several computer hard drives and servers seized from Levy's home. They have not described contents of the computer equipment. They said Levy recorded some patients using a camera hidden in the top of a pen.
Hopkins officials said in a statement Monday an employee alerted them to Levy's actions Feb. 4, prompting the police investigation that led to the termination of his position Feb. 8. He had practiced gynecology and obstetrics at Hopkins clinics, primarily in East Baltimore, since 1988. They declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing police investigation.
Tyesha Bell, a 28-year-old Catonsville resident, is one plaintiff. The second lawsuit does not identify a plaintiff by name.
Bell said she had been a patient of Levy's since 2007, after hearing other women praise him. Like other patients interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Bell said Levy always worked to squeeze in patients' last-minute appointments and gave them his personal pager number.
But since learning of the allegations against Levy, Bell said she feels betrayed.
"This is a man I trusted with my personal health," Bell said. "An OB/GYN has a woman in her most vulnerable position."
Bell's lawsuit was filed with the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, a repository for medical malpractice claims that can then be petitioned to Circuit Court. It seeks $30,000 in compensation for each of several claims — including malpractice, invasion of privacy, and negligent hiring and supervision on the part of Hopkins. A claim of intentional misrepresentation seeks an additional $5 million in damages.
Scott Snyder, an attorney with the Snyder Litigation Team representing Bell, said he looks forward to discovery, when a judge grants lawyers the authority to investigate the facts of a case.
Law firm Schochor, Federico and Staton PA filed a second complaint on behalf of a client identified only as "Jane Doe No. 1."
In that lawsuit, claims of negligence were filed in city Circuit Court, while claims of medical malpractice were filed in the health care dispute resolution office. Lawyers will seek to combine the cases in Circuit Court, attorney Jonathan Schochor said.
The suit seeks $10 million in damages for each count.
The Jane Doe case also seeks to have the case approved as a class action, a type of case in which one plaintiff's case moves forward on behalf of a large number of others that share common facts and legal issues. Legal experts have said more facts of the case may need to come to light before it can be determined whether a class action is appropriate.
Other Baltimore law firms are meanwhile holding off on taking legal action. Attorney A. Dwight Pettit said he is focused this week on gathering the stories of clients who have approached him
Another firm is instead calling on police and Hopkins to release more information.
Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White LLC, along with the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, wrote letters to Hopkins leaders and city and county police asking for public assurances that more information would be shared with Levy's former patients. Their clients are asking to know promptly whether they are identified in any video or photo and whether there is any sign the images were distributed to others.
Baltimore police declined to comment before reviewing the letter. Hopkins officials had no comment but have said they do not discuss pending litigation and have been working with police to determine what information about the investigation they can release.
The letters ask for more information "to alleviate our respective clients' anxiety," the law firm and advocacy group wrote.
"The concern is this will drag on and people will have a lot of anxiety, and sometimes unnecessarily, and by providing the information you can reduce some of the stress," said Russell Butler, executive director of the victims center. "You've got to treat them with all appropriate respect and candor and not pretend like this didn't happen."
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