$123 Million Settlement OKd In Delaware Pediatrician Sex Abuse Case

Earl Bradley child rape settlement

A judge has approved a $123 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of young children who were sexually abused by former Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley.

New Castle County Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III issued his ruling Monday after holding a hearing last week.

The settlement resolves claims against a southern Delaware hospital where Bradley had physician privileges, the Medical Society of Delaware, and five physicians accused by the plaintiffs of not reporting suspicions about Bradley to authorities.

The 59-year-old Bradley is serving 14 life sentences for child rape. He was convicted last year by a judge who viewed more than 13 hours of homemade videos showing sex crimes against more than 80 victims. Slights approved the settlement in the civil lawsuit after attorneys for the plaintiffs agreed to reduce their fees to 22.5 percent of the proposed settlement, down from 25 percent.

Attorneys will receive about $27.8 million in fees and another $2.1 million in expenses, leaving about $90 million available for victims of Bradley. Beebe Medical Center, a southern Delaware hospital where Bradley had hospital privileges, also agreed to provide up to $1 million in medical care for over 15 years to plaintiffs included in the lawsuit.

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The judge agreed with attorneys that without the settlement, Beebe would be staring at bankruptcy while victims would face years of litigation, with no guarantee of any recovery and the very real risk of young children being compelled to talk about what happened to them, which former Pennsylvania judge Thomas Rutter said would be "extraordinarily traumatic."

"Each time the victim is called upon to remember ... it causes significant emotional response," said Rutter, who served as a settlement arbitrator in the bankruptcy of Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, which sought bankruptcy protection in 2009 because of liabilities stemming from abuse by pedophile priests.

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Bruce Hudson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said more than 900 families believe they have a claim, but Alex Pires Jr., an attorney who helped represent Beebe and who serves on the Beebe Medical Foundation board, said he expects the final tally could approach 1,500.

Pires credited Beebe president and CEO Jeffrey Fried, who also testified, for deciding not to fight the lawsuit but to try to get the hospital's insurance carriers to participate in a settlement.

The bulk of the settlement fund, about $112 million, comes from Beebe's insurance carriers, with a subsidiary of insurance giant American International Group Inc., contributing more than $70 million. Beebe itself would contribute about $7.2 million in cash and $1 million worth of medical care to Bradley's victims over 15 years. Insurance carriers for the non-Beebe defendants would contribute about $3 million to the settlement.

In a previous hearing, three people whose families have been affected by the Bradley accepted the judge's invitation to give their thoughts.

One woman said she was concerned about the number of people who may file claims in the case, simply because their children were treated by Bradley.

"My kid's living it every day. That bothers me," she said.

Another woman said she thought attorneys did the best they could but that no amount of money would make things better. She told the judge that her biggest concern was constantly seeing Bradley's photograph on television and in the newspapers and the emotional impact it has on her.

"They keep showing this pig's face on the television set whenever they discuss his name," she said, wondering if it were possible for the court to impose a gag order to prevent media outlets from showing Bradley's photograph.

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