The $190 million settlement reached by plaintiffs’ attorneys and The Johns Hopkins Hospital (“Hopkins”) in a mandatory class-action lawsuit involving allegations that a former Hopkins gynecologist secretly recorded his patients during examinations is required to obtain final approval by a judge who will determine if the terms of the proposed settlement are fair and reasonable. The settlement may be in jeopardy after three objections were filed in court on behalf of class members.
While one of the objectors is an individual representing herself and a second objector is represented by a Baltimore attorney, the third objection was filed by an attorney on behalf of 25 class members who allege that the proposed settlement results in an excessive legal fee to the attorneys representing the class and that the settlement fails to provide guidelines so that class members may determine how much they would receive from the settlement proceeds.
Because the court ordered that the class-action was mandatory, potential class members do not have the option of opting out of the settlement but they may file objections with the court as to the settlement terms. The 25 objectors had hired the same Baltimore attorney before the class-action was certified and made mandatory; all 25 registered as class members so that they could file their objection to the settlement.
The objection notes that the attorneys representing the class (“class attorneys”) intend to seek attorneys fees in an amount up to 35% of the total settlement amount. While the objectors agree that the class attorneys are entitled to a fair and reasonable fee for their efforts on behalf of the class members, they note that there are preexisting contractual obligations of some of the class members to pay their own attorneys, which has not been taken into account by the class attorneys.
The objection further notes that while the settlement proposes that each of the class members will be evaluated by a forensic psychologist and then assigned to one of four categories based on the severity of their injuries, the settlement fails to establish the range of damages payable within each category, thereby causing the objectors to be unable to determine the fairness and the reasonableness of the amount that they may receive in compensation for their injuries and damages.
The one objector represented by an attorney argues that the amount of the proposed attorneys fees is unreasonable in light of the short duration of the pending claims (less than 18 months) that was spent mainly in settlement negotiations, without little litigation risk beyond the filing of the lawsuits.
While the settlement was given preliminary approval on July 21, 2014, class members had until August 29, 2014 to file objections to the settlement. The settlement fairness hearing is scheduled before a judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City later in September 2014. Potential class members have until November 14, 2014 to registered as class members.
Source: The Daily Record, September 5, 2014.
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