WILMINGTON, Del. — More than 1,400 victims of former Delaware pediatrician Earl B. Bradley have been sent letters detailing the amount of money they will receive from a $122 million settlement from a class-action lawsuit against Beebe Medical Center, the Medical Society of Delaware and a handful of doctors.
Bruce L. Hudson, a Wilmington, Del., attorney who represented about 150 former patients of the Lewes, Del., doctor who filmed himself raping about 100 children, including babies, and abused hundreds of others, said victims and their families will finally learn how much they will be compensated.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hudson said of the case, which began with 17 victims suing in March 2010, a few months after Bradley was charged with multiple counts of rape. “They are finding out for the first time that they are going to be awarded money and how much.”
Beebe, which once employed Bradley and cleared him of wrongdoing involving his medical treatment of young girls, was accused along with other defendants of knowing he posed a threat but failing to report him to authorities.
Besides the allegations that occurred while he was employed at Beebe in the mid-1990s, Bradley abused patients at an office in Milford, Del., and also at his Disney-themed BayBees Pediatrics from the late 1990s until his December 2009 arrest.
The settlement money, from which attorney fees are being deducted, is roughly $112 million from Beebe’s insurance carriers, $7 million from Beebe and $3 million from the Medical Society and other defendants.
Hudson said 1,402 patients filed claims, and all will get some compensation. Victims, almost all of whom are still minors, have been divided into five different categories depending on the degree of abuse a mediator determines they suffered, and all victims in that category will get the same award.
The exact amounts of the awards for those in each category have not been made public. But a source familiar with the case said those in the highest category, entitled, “Clear and Convincing Evidence of Intercourse,” will get roughly $400,000 to $500,000.
Those in the lowest category, “Child Was Likely Not Abused,” will get a nominal fee of about $1,000 to $2,500. The source was not certain of the exact amounts for each category, but wanted to stress that no victim is getting anywhere near $1 million.
“Of the hundreds of victims, not all were injured equally,” Hudson told The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal last year when the parties were negotiating the settlement. “Some are horrendously scarred. Others have more minor cases. There won’t be an equal distribution but there is going to be an equitable distribution.”
Victims and their families have until the end of the year to appeal their classification and once those appeals are finalized, attorneys said they expect to distribute the money early in 2014.
The handful of adults who filed claims will receive the money, but awards for minors will be overseen by Chancery Court and guardians assigned to each child. Families wishing to make withdrawals for expenses for health, education or other reasons must get permission from the court, Hudson said.
Bradley, who was convicted in August 2011 of raping or abusing 86 patients whose attacks he videotaped, was sentenced to 14 life terms plus 164 years in prison.
He often used promises of toys or candy or ice cream to convince parents to let him take their children to others parts of his office, which were equipped with video cameras, where he would rape or molest babies and toddlers. The average age of his victims was 3, prosecutors said.
The mother of one victim who was 7 when she said she watched Bradley inappropriately penetrate her during a 1999 exam and screamed at him said she has not yet received her award but is satisfied the case is finally being resolved.
The woman, whose daughter is 21, said she expects her daughter to be in one of the top two categories and receive a six-figure settlement.
“It’s been 14 years and it will be a good thing to able to close this chapter and not talk about it again,” said the woman, who is not being identified in keeping with The News Journal‘s policy not to identify victims of sexual abuse.
The money will help pay educational expenses for the daughter, who is in college and considering graduate school and perhaps a down payment on a home. “She won’t have to start at the bottom like most kids do when they get out of school,” the mother said.
In the lawsuits, patients accused Beebe of negligence and dereliction of duty. Hospital officials investigated Bradley in 1996 after a nurse reported inappropriate vaginal exams — specifically that he catheterized many of the girls he examined.
The lawsuits contended Beebe could have prevented future attacks by Bradley if the staff had reported him to Delaware’s medical disciplinary board, which licenses and disciplines physicians.
Lewes attorney Chase T. Brockstedt, whose office represents more than 100 victims, said he will help clients with any appropriate appeals and educate them about their awards.
“We were happy to get the letters out and start the process,” said Brockstedt. “That process will continue to be finalized and I think next year is a realistic date for payments to be made.”