CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey has given preliminary approval to $23.1 million settlement of a class action lawsuit involving former patients at CAMC who were treated by Doctor Steven Matulis.
Bailey, who has scheduled final hearing on the settlement for March 10, 2021, also approved the lawsuit as class-action status during Tuesday’s hearing. The class is made up of approximately 2,500 women who were treated by Matulis at CAMC’s endoscopy suite.
Matulis, a gastroenterologist, who was convicted in 2018 of first degree sexual abuse for abusing a patient while that patient was under anesthesia, has also been named in a number of civil lawsuits.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Marvin Masters told Bailey Tuesday all of the patients in the CAMC class-action lawsuit were unconscious when Matulis took advantage of them and they didn’t know until February 2016 that anything had happened
“There’s no record of exactly what did occur to them,” Masters said. “They found out later, all of them, later of what they were subjected to in the suites.”
Employees have given testimony that Matulis committed a number of sex crimes along with taking photos of some women while they were under anesthesia and cleaning them after colonoscopies as a way to abuse them.
Plaintiffs’ attorney David Carriger told Bailey the plan for notifying the women who are part of the class will be through direct mail. He said they have their names and addresses. He said they would be provided a claim form and would be allowed to opt-out of the settlement.
“If everyone participates payment would be to each roughly $6,000 dollars,” Carriger said.
The amount would be larger if more former patients opt-out.
Carriger said the $23.1 million settlement amount represents the limit of the available CAMC insurance for the claims that are being settled. Anyone opting out would also be subject to insurance limits, he said.
There are additional cases against CAMC involving Matulis. Some who worked with him claim he sexually harassed them. CAMC attorney Heather Heiskell Jones said the hospital would be fighting claims separate from the class-action lawsuit.
“We absolutely intend to continue to defend and we’re not reaching any agreements with regards to a certification or a defense of the remaining claims at this point,” she said.
Bailey also approved Tuesday the appointment of a claims administrator and a guardian ad litem.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys are seeking fees up to one-third of a settlement amount and $400,000 in expenses.
There was a separate civil lawsuit that settled out of court earlier this year involving Matulis and patients treated at the Charleston Day Surgery Center. That case involved 372 patients and settled for a total of $890,000