Nearly 1,300 victims are seeking compensation in the $123 million class-action civil suit against convicted pedophile Earl Bradley and Beebe Medical Center.
Beebe Medical Center attorney Mike Mustokoff set the total number of victims at 1,272. The class has increased by more than 300 since November, when about 900 people had joined the suit.
Plaintiffs' attorney Bruce Hudson said no timetable has been set for victims to receive compensation.
Plaintiffs' attorney Chase Brockstedt said arbiters Thomas Rutter and Dr. Anne Steinberg have begun evaluating the class, under the supervision of the Court of Chancery. Victims are entitled to interviews with Rutter and Steinberg and some already have scheduled them, Brockstedt said.
Under a settlement approved by Delaware Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III in November 2012, victims will be placed in categories based on the level of abuse suffered and will have an opportunity to appeal where they are placed, Brockstedt said. Once the number of victims in each category is established by the arbiters, each category will be allocated a dollar amount. The total amount available for victims is $89 million; attorneys received 22.5 percent of the $123 million settlement.
Hudson said Rutter and Steinberg have a monumental task ahead of them, going throughthe details of each class member's abuse and assigning them into categories. He said he suspects there are even more than the nearly 1,300 victims, but some parents may be unaware their child was victimized or may ahve decided not to become part of the class.
John Culhane, professor at Widener University School of Law, said assigning victims compensation based on the level of injury is unusual in a class-action case, but the real difficulty is in figuring out how to compensate victims using the $89 million available.
Culhane said one thing that is not clear is whether everyone will get something. Referring to the two lowest levels of injury – those who have no evidence of abuse and those who were likely not abused – Culhane said those categories may get little if anything.
While the process of establishing settlements will take time, Culhane said the settlement is a much better alternative for the victims, because details will be handled privately and not in open court. He also said victims are much more likely to see compensation more quickly than if they had to go through litigation, which could take years.
The $123 million settlement is believed to be the third largest in U.S. history. Victims had until Dec. 14 to join the suit.
Bradley is serving 14 life sentences and 164 years in prison for assault, rape and sexual exploitation of a child in the abuse of 86 patients.
“Hopefully this will bring a close to one of the darkest chapters in Delaware medical history,” Hudson said.