A judge has approved a final, $23 million settlement in a class action suit over the actions of a former Charleston doctor accused of the sexual abuse of patients while they were under anesthesia.
“I do give approval to the settlement as proposed today,” Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey said at the conclusion of a hearing by videoconference.
There are still some details to be worked out, so Bailey set a status conference for Sept. 9 to follow up on some issues like distribution of funds.
Steven Matulis, who was a gastroenterologist, was convicted in 2018 of first degree sexual abuse for abusing a patient while that patient was under anesthesia.
The class in the lawsuit is made up of about 2,500 women who were treated by Matulis at Charleston Area Medical Center’s endoscopy suite. Those were patients who would have received a colonoscopy between 2010 and 2016.
Each of those represented by the lawsuit is expected to receive about $5,000.
“The settlement is a strong settlement,” said Matthew Stonestreet, one of the plaintiffs attorneys in the case. “It has provided very, very strong relief to the women in the defined class.”
Women who are part of the class were notified through direct mail. Each was provided a claim form and could opt of the settlement.
Only nine of the 2,500 class members actually opted out, attorneys said today.
David Carriger, another of the plaintiffs attorneys, said so few opting out represents “a great indication the settlement was fair and represents a good settlement for everybody involved.”
Bailey indicated that she agrees.
“I think this is an incredible outcome given the number of persons and the length of time from which some of these services were rendered to them when they were patients,” the judge said. “Due process has been met as required by law in this matter.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys sought fees up to 39 percent — about $9 million of the settlement amount — and $400,000 in expenses.
There are additional cases against CAMC involving Matulis. The settlement allows other claims against CAMC to proceed up to an additional $30 million.
A separate civil lawsuit involving Matulis and patients treated at the Charleston Day Surgery Center settled last year. That case involved 372 patients and settled for $890,000