Attorneys who have spent months poring over medical records said they found no record of about 2,000 women who said they were victimized by a Johns Hopkins gynecologist accused of secretly recording women during pelvic exams.
Dr. Nikita Levy, who had practiced about 25 years at a Johns Hopkins Medicine clinic in East Baltimore, killed himself in February 2013 after the allegations emerged. Police found more than 1,300 photos and videos of undressed women.
In September 2014, more than a year after his suicide, a judge approved a $190 million settlement between Hopkins and the women, kicking off an enormous effort to interview and verify thousands of possible victims.
No payments have been made yet to nearly 9,600 women in the class-action lawsuit. And this month, letters were sent to about 2,000 of the women stating that attorneys had found no documentation showing they were Levy's patients, said Michael Lee, the chief operating officer of RG/2 Claims Administration LLC, the company managing the settlement.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun, asks the women to answer and return an attached form by May 5. Their answers will help attorneys continue their search. The letter also requests proof, such as test results, insurance claims, prescription bottles, pharmacy records and birth certificates.
"It's just very upsetting," said Anna Jackson of Parkville, who said she saw Levy several times beginning in 1988. "They want you to come up with medical records that are practically impossible for us to get."
As the months pass by, Jackson said, she grows increasingly frustrated, particularly after learning her records were not found.
"The only thing I can do is see if we can try and recover the records," she said. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to."
Claims administrators are urging patience.
"We understand that you want this process to be over. We do, too," retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma Raker, who is serving as the claims adjudicator in the case, said in a video posted on a website created to help women navigate the settlement. "We're working as fast and hard as we can."
Raker will propose how the settlement money is divided; the court must approve her proposal.
She has a team of about 50 people managing the process: about 40 interviewers, also retired judges, a forensic psychiatrist and a specialist in post-traumatic stress. The team is paid from settlement money, but it remains unclear how much they will ultimately receive.
"It's an enormous undertaking for everybody, and it takes time," Raker said.
All the victims will be paid at the same time, after every woman is interviewed, a process Raker expects to take several more months.
About 60 percent of interviews are finished, according to Lee.
Then women will be divided into four groups: no negative effects, mild negative effects, moderate effects and severe. The payments will vary by group and depend on the number of women in each group.
Administrators have declined to predict the amount of payments.
While more months of interviews will bring the process to nearly two years from the settlement, that's a reasonable timeline, said Greg Dolin, a professor at University of Baltimore School of Law.
"It's important to know who's in and who's out," Dolin said. "Given the fact that this went on for decades and involved, from what I understand, thousands of women ... it would probably take some time for the settlement to actually be paid."
Vanessa Mack of Parkville also received the letter stating her records weren't found. She was a patient of Levy's for about 20 years beginning in the 1980s, she said.
Hopkins spokeswoman Kim Hoppe declined to say how long patient records are kept. But she said Hopkins maintains records "consistent with and often exceeding" state law, which generally requires health care providers to keep patient records at least five years.
Hopkins continues to share records with the attorneys, Hoppe said.
Documents related to the case, obtained by The Baltimore Sun under the public information act, show police believe 310 to 360 patients — including 60 young girls — were filmed.
Lawyers said thousands of patients were victimized by the revelations. Levy was exposed when a co-worker became suspicious of the pen he wore on a lanyard around his neck. The co-worker brought the pen home and discovered a tiny camera.
The victims cannot be identified in the photos, so every woman who was a patient of Levy was eligible to join the class-action lawsuit.
In her recent video, Raker assured women those images remain secure.
"Those photographs are sealed. They are under lock and key by order of the Circuit Court. No one is looking at them now," she said. "There is no evidence any of those photographs have been shared on the Internet."