Trusts set up for victims of Earl Bradley are “99 percent” complete, according to one of the attorneys involved, but money from a $123 million civil settlement is not expected to begin going to victims until the fall.
Wilmington attorney Bruce Hudson, one of 16 attorneys involved on the plaintiff’s side of the case, said a small handful victims seen on videos Bradley made of his assaults had not had claims made on their behalf. He said these victims were not in the original pool of victims provided to arbiter Thomas Rutter.
Plaintiff’s attorney Phil Federico said there were four victims who originally did not come forward added to the pool. He said although these victims were not part of the original suit, the Court of Chancery, administrator of the settlement money, wanted to compensate these victims, who are among the most severely abused.
In order to get things right, Hudson said, the formula for the amount each pool was to be paid had to be revised. Federico said victims should begin receiving letters disclosing the category of abuse and what their compensation is in the next 30 days.
The identity of the small handful of victims that had outstanding claims is a well-protected secret; Hudson said even the attorneys don’t know who they are. In April, Hudson was optimistic money could begin to flow to victims by summer, however, he now says that timetable is looking more like late in the fall. He said he was frustrated the process was taking so long, but added the court has made clear it wants to get things right.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Federico said there are 1,400 victims seeking compensation for sexual abuse committed by Bradley, the one-time Lewes pediatrician currently serving 14 life sentences for rape, assault and sexual exploitation of child patients.
While Bradley was convicted in criminal court, his victims also sued him, Beebe Medical Center, the Medical Society of Delaware and several doctors for their role in allowing Bradley to go undetected. The largest share of the settlement was from Beebe: $112 million in insurance funds, $6 million in cash, $100,000 per year over the next five years and $1 million in services for victims until 2027.
In November, New Castle County Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III approved a landmark $123 million class-action settlement. Arbiters and Dr. Anne Steinberg were brought in to evaluate the class and assign victims to categories based on the severity of abuse suffered by the victim. The money would be placed in a trust overseen by the Court of Chancery until the victim turned 18 years old. Money can be withdrawn from a victim's share of the trust, with the approval of the court, to pay for treatment-related expenses.
The attorney’s fee was assigned at 22.5 percent, leaving the victims with $89 million.
Hudson said each category will assigned a percentage of the $89 million pot, with the most severe and provable cases being assigned the top tier and the highest percentage. Once the percentages are figured out, a specific dollar amount will emerge and be allocated for each category, Hudson said.
Federico said a significant number of the 1,400 victims will fall into the lower tiers, with little to no proof that the child was abused. The percentage of serious injuries figures to be smaller, Federico said.
One positive aspect of this, Federico said, is that since the number of serious, provable abuse cases is low, and the majority of cases cannot be proven, it leaves more money in the pot for the more seriously injured. He said most of the top tier victims had their abuse captured on video by Bradley.