After 17 months of negotiations, attorneys for victims of pedophile pediatrician Earl Bradley, Beebe Medical Center and the Medical Society of Delaware have reached a $123.15 million settlement in a class-action civil suit.
In a joint statement, the hospital, attorneys for Bradley’s victims, attorneys for the medical society and the doctors said that at the time of Bradley's arrest in December 2009, "the people of Southern Delaware learned that a doctor whom they trusted with their children's care betrayed their trust, preyed on their children, and harmed them in the most unimaginable of ways.”
“Rather than engaging in costly, time-consuming and painful litigation that would surely have resulted in the hospital's bankruptcy, years of delay and further harm to these victims, lawyers for both plaintiffs and Beebe resolved to do things differently,” the statement said.
New Castle County Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III is expected to approve the settlement Tuesday, Nov. 13. If Slights rules in favor of the settlement, present and future claims against Beebe, the society and doctors Carol Tavani, Lowell Scott, James Marvel and Nicholas Berg will be dismissed. The doctors were named in the suit by attorneys for the victims, who said they failed to report Bradley for unprofessional conduct.
If the settlement is approved, a pool of $123.15 million will be established under a trust to disburse the money to the victims, under the ultimate supervision of the Court of Chancery. The money is coming from Beebe, its insurance carriers and insurance carriers for the medical society.
The settlement will allow Beebe to avoid bankruptcy and allow child victims to avoid a trial while also compensating the victims and allowing the community to heal, the statement said. The class-action suit comprises more than 900 families.
“Only limited formal discovery took place before the lawyers for defendants, the insurance companies and the children agreed that mediation of the victims' claims would both avoid unnecessary delay and eliminate the need to expose children, wounded by Earl Bradley, from the additional trauma of deposition or even interview,” the statement said.
Claimants will be divided into five categories based on the nature of the harm suffered and the need for further treatment. Children within each category will each receive the same amount of compensation, the statement said. For victims younger than 18, the funds will be held in trust for their needs under the supervision of the Court of Chancery.
The statement said attorney Thomas Rutter would administer the disbursement of funds, assisted by pediatrician and child forensic psychiatrist Dr. Anne Steinberg.
Rutter is a Philadelphia attorney who has mediated sexual-abuse cases against priests and religious institutions in Delaware. Steinberg has special expertise in treating child sexual-abuse cases.
Attorneys on all sides of the case said because they are under a protective order, they are limited in what the can say until the case is formally resolved by Slights.
Mike Mustokoff, Beebe’s attorney, said should the court accept the settlement, the financial viability of the hospital is assured. He did not wish to comment further.
Lewes attorney Chase Brockstedt, who represents more than 80 families in the suit, said he had no further comment. Attorney Matthew Boyer, who represents the medical society, also said he did not wish to comment, in compliance with Slights' order.
Department of Justice spokesman Jason Miller said the department has no statement on the settlement.
For Bradley’s victims, the settlement is a positive development, although nothing will erase the pain that has been done.
The parent of one victim said, “I don’t believe that any monetary amount or any life sentence can give back to these children what was taken. However, knowing that their continued care and counseling can be met through victims' compensation is a huge relief to the families who may not have otherwise been able to provide financially, and for that I am grateful.”
The settlement would wrap up the civil case against Bradley a week after his criminal attorneys with the Public Defender’s Office declined to further appeal the case and ended their representation. The Supreme Court upheld Bradley’s conviction on 24 counts of assault, rape and child exploitation involving 86 patients Sept. 6. Court records show Bradley's victims ranged in age from as young as 3 or 4 months to about 13.
Bradley, now 59, is serving 14 life sentences and 164 years in prison at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Institute in Smyrna.
To read the joint statement as a PDF, click Statement on Bradley settlement.