In the first weeks following the arrest of former pediatrician Earl Bradley for sexual abuse of children, Beebe Medical Center President Jeff Fried met in New York City with one of the hospital's chief financial advisors.
“He told us what would happen: there would be cascading lawsuits; it would be the end of Beebe Hospital,” said Fried. “He told us to try to find a buyer.” On his drive home, Fried said, he reflected on the possibility he was witnessing the end of a medical institution that had served its community for nearly 100 years.
Instead, three years later, with Bradley convicted and spending the rest of his life in a Delaware jail cell, lawyers for the victims and their families, Beebe Medical Center, several doctors and insurance companies reached an unprecedented $120 million class-action settlement. That settlement is designed to help with the future mental and physical health needs of an estimated 1,000 affected children and their families.
Judge Bill Lee, chairman of the board at the community-owned Beebe Medical Center, said Alex Pires ultimately brought the whole settlement together.
Lee was among dozens of people associated with Pires and Beebe Medical Center who gathered this week at Fish On in the Villages of Five Points to honor Pires for his pivotal role in the settlement. A volunteer member of Beebe Medical Foundation, which helps support the hospital, the Dewey Beach resident and businessman has built a successful legal career litigating major class-action lawsuits at the national level. When he realized the depth of the problems facing Beebe, he stepped in to help.
“He was the only person in Delaware with experience in major tort class-action suits,” said Lee. “He convinced us, and he convinced the lawyers for all the victims of these horrible crimes who wanted to pursue their individual suits, that we were going to have to go down a road we had never been down before. He told those lawyers - a very capable group of professionals - that if they did not, some class-action lawyer from New York or Baltimore or Philadelphia would arrive on the scene, prove there is a class action and take their suits. Either join the class action he was proposing, Alex told them, or be locked out. They joined,” said Lee.
“In my 40 years on the bench as a judge and in private practice, I've never seen anything like it. In the end, Alex served as advisor to Beebe Medical Center, advisor to the lawyers for the children and their families, advisor to the mediators putting the settlement together, and to the judge in the case who needed to know what would happen next - because Alex knew. He helped create a result greater than anyone could have imagined. He helped save Beebe, helped craft this amazing deal for the victims preyed upon by a horrible predator. Everyone in the community ought to be thankful and know about this. That's why we're here.”
Street football coach
Mike Mustokoff, Beebe's lead attorney in the case, said Pires was like the coach of a street football team in Philly. “He knew what the play would be. 'You cut behind the Chevy, and you, you keep the people off the street.' Alex was the coach, and we ran the plays. It couldn't have happened without him.”
Mustokoff said Pires used a phrase over and over again with all the different groups involved in reaching a settlement. “'Darkness,' he would say. In that inimitable Boston accent, and with great recalcitrance, he would say: 'We're the only thing that stands between you and darkness.'”
Jim Murray, a sexual abuse lawyer involved with major cases across the country, was also on the legal team assembled by Beebe. “In a 30-year career, there are two or three cases you remember. This is one of them. We will miss each other, which grown lawyer men don't like to say. Alex brought such raw emotion, raw sincerity to this case. We would like to work together on another case someday - but not here!”
Pires' wife, Diane Cooley, also a lawyer, told those gathered that her husband is a creative idealist. “His approach represented a daring gambit. The Beebe board didn't fight him on it. When we first discussed the case, it seemed like such a long shot. But Alex said 'What are we supposed to do? Lose our hospital? We can't do that. That's not an option. What good would that do?'”
Beebe board member Patti Shreeve echoed the sentiments of many in the community: “You also helped make it so all of those kids and their families would never have to testify in court.”
Pires thanked all for the recognition. “This is the first case I've done pro bono [at no charge, for the good of the community] when people thanked me. I'm in. It's energized me. It's very meaningful and very much appreciated. This is the reason you go to law school. You have big dreams about what you can accomplish, and you want to take on these cases. But the cases are always very different than you dream. Thank you to everyone for trusting me. It means an enormous amount to me.”