Nearly two years after a class-action lawsuit against convicted pedophile Earl Bradley and Beebe Medical Center was settled, victims of Bradley’s crimes have not yet received any of the $89 million that had been rewarded to them.
Distribution of settlement funds is finally drawing close, attorneys say.
A hearing will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, Sept. 26, in the Court of Chancery in Wilmington to formally approve the distribution plan. Attorneys for Bradley’s victims are in the process of sending letters to their clients notifying them of the settlement.
Attorney Bruce Hudson said the structure was meant to allow victims to get their money in a protected way. He called the plan a good deal for the most severely abused victims, in that the settlement money has earned and will continue to earn interest. Hudson said there is a provision in the settlement that allows victims to access the funds for emergency medical care before the formal distribution of funds.
“Ultimately, it has been a long delay, but the victims have benefited more than if it had gone faster,” Hudson said.
According to court documents, victims who have reached the age of 18 can choose to get their funds in either a lump sum or in periodic payments. Those under 18 will automatically receive their money in three installments: one each at age 18, age 21 and age 25.
The settlement also sets up a latent injury trust, funded with $3.5 million of funds from Beebe Healthcare, to help pay for medical or psychiatric care of victims under 18. The letter to victims calls this fund an emergency backup for victims who cannot pay for services themselves and who do not have health insurance or state and local healthcare benefits.
Victims can object to the distribution plan in writing to the Court of Chancery by Thursday, Sept. 16.
As for why payment to victims has been delayed so long, plaintiffs' attorney Chase Brockstedt said the sheer complexity of distributing the settlement funds has taken some time. The class of plaintiffs comprises more than 1,300 former patients, broken down into five categories, with the top group being those who had suffered the most severe and verifiable abuse by Bradley. At the other end of the spectrum, plaintiffs also include patients who were not likely to have been abused.
“It is very close to being finished and approved by the court, and we hope to begin the distribution process within the next 60 to 90 days,” Brockstedt said.
The Bradley settlement is one of the largest in U.S. history for a class-action case; plaintiffs were awarded $123 million, with most of that being contributed by Beebe Healthcare’s insurance carriers. Attorney fees were set at 22.5 percent, which came out to about $28 million to be split among 10 to 12 attorneys.
The hospital, which was cited in the suit for failing to report evidence Bradley was sexually abusing patients, also contributed $6 million in cash, $100,000 per year over the next five years and $1 million in services for the victims through 2027. The medical services would include any healthcare available at Beebe or any Beebe-owned facility.
The settlement was approved by Delaware Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III Nov. 19, 2012.