How much is emotional pain worth?

Our Blog,personal injury | January 18, 2017

A gynecologist has been secretly taking explicit photographs and videos of his patients without their knowledge or consent. How much is their emotional pain worth?

This question is at the heart of a case surrounding a Johns Hopkins gynecologist named Nikita Levy, who had taken thousands of videos and images of his patients since beginning to practice in 1988. In February 2013, authorities brought forward charges against Mr. Levy, who committed suicide days later.

Mr. Levy’s patients, many of whom are poor and African-American, then filed a class-action lawsuit, according to The Washington Post, and settled for $190 million in July of 2014. Though settled, the lawsuit has probed some to examine the deep, lasting effects of psychological and emotional trauma, and how that could play out in personal injury lawsuits.

Specifically, 8,344 of Mr. Levy’s patients brought the suit forward, after attesting to experiencing trauma, psychological torment and lost sleep.

Since Mr. Levy’s actions left no visible or tangible scars, and his victims were unaware of his actions until they became public, the question of the extent of injury is seen as subjective by some.

As such, based on assessments, each woman named in the class action lawsuit is set to receive between $1,750 and $26,048, with $32 million of the settlement reserved for attorney fees.

Assessing psychological trauma

According to Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney tasked with delegating settlements to victims of mass tragedies, psychological trauma is often a tricky territory for lawyers to explore, so much so that many even avoid taking cases of this nature, and prefer to focus on cases with physical injuries.

To determine damage in this lawsuit, a panel of doctors created a list of questions that attempted to capture the breadth of the women’s experiences. The women were then divided into four groups, each one entitled to a different level of the settlement money.

However, it’s ultimately difficult to determine the extent of psychological trauma, as well as fair and just compensation.