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Claims due in Delaware doctor’s abuse settlement

Children who were sexually abused by a former Delaware pediatrician, including about 100 who live in Maryland, have until Friday to submit claims following a $123 million settlement of their civil lawsuit.

After attorneys’ fees and expenses are paid, $90 million should be available for victims, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Philip Federico of Schochor, Federico & Staton P.A. in Baltimore.

So far, more than 900 of Earl Bradley’s 7,400 patients have come forward to participate in the class action against him, Federico said. Any additional victims have until Friday to do so.

Lawyers on both sides in the case say the way the settlement was reached — through a mediated class action instead of filing individual claims — is a new way of handling sexual abuse cases where many victims are involved.

Federico’s firm represents about 40 percent of the class. On Monday, he said lawyers typically try to pursue individual claims to get individual results, but in this case, that philosophy clearly would not serve the best interests of the pool of victims or the community served by Beebe Medical Center, where Bradley practiced. Beebe was one of the defendants in the lawsuit.

Federico said the class action was the only way for Beebe to stave off bankruptcy, which was beneficial for those who live in the area. He also said that a class action was good for the victims because it ensured that they would all be treated equally.

“Without [the class action], it’s a race-to-the-courthouse mentality,” he said. “Those at the front of the line would have gotten paid, but others would not have, because we would have run out of insurance coverage.”

Michael M. Mustokoff, an attorney at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia, represents the hospital. Mustokoff said Monday that this was a “singular settlement in terms of what was accomplished.”

He said the hospital suggested that the case proceed as a class action and be resolved through mediation, and the plaintiffs agreed.

Mustokoff said that avoided extended litigation and the taking of victims’ depositions.

“That trauma was avoided,” he said.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III approved the settlement last month. The plaintiffs must send back a form that they have received along with their medical records.

Thomas Rugger, a former judge who is based in Philadelphia, will determine the compensation for each victim. Rugger also oversaw payouts to victims of abuse by members of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

Bradley, 59, was convicted in August 2011 of multiple counts of child rape involving his patients, and is serving a term of 14 life sentences. He recorded his abuse on more than 13 hours of videos that he kept at his office.

His public defenders have said they will not file any further appeals on his behalf, meaning a federal court review is unlikely.

The parties to the civil suit reached the settlement in October. Under the submitted agreement, claimants will be separated into five categories based upon the harm they suffered and their need for continued therapy.

Howard Dubowitz, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and head of the hospital’s division of child protection, said Monday that he would advise all parents of the victims in this case to get their child some form of mental health counseling.

Dubowitz said that most people who have been sexually abused suffer some negative consequences, but there is enormous variability in how they are impacted.

“Some do relatively well and others may suffer life-long problems,” he said. “It is impossible to predict the potential consequences.”