UCLA to Pay an Additional $374M to Settle Sex Abuse Claims Involving Gynecologist
The University of California system will pay nearly $375 million to settle lawsuits by more than 312 former patients who say they were sexually abused by former gynecologist Dr. James Heaps, who worked for the Los Angeles campus between 1983 and 2018.
The sex abuse settlement brings the total payout by the parent system of UCLA to nearly $700 million. Following a $243.6 million settlement for another 200 victims of the same doctor earlier this year, and a $73 million settlement reached in November 2020 to settle a class action lawsuit over the same issue.
James Heaps, who worked as a gynecologist at the University from 1983 until 2014, was arrested in 2018, and charged with sexual battery involving two former patients. After he was arrested, hundreds of women came forward, saying they had also been sexually abused by the doctor, and claiming the University did little or nothing to stop the abuse.
Heaps is currently awaiting trial on the original criminal charges.
Former female patients claim Heaps committed the acts of abuse during medical examinations over the course of two decades, inappropriately touching female patients during vaginal and breast exams, and making inappropriately sexual comments to patients and staff members.
Heaps currently faces 21 felony sexual abuse counts. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which allege he abused hundreds of women during his career at UCLA.
Following a $73 million class action settlement agreement in November 2020, about 600 women refused to participate and decided to pursue individual lawsuits. This latest settlement agreement appears to resolve just about the last of those claims.
“This agreement, combined with earlier settlements involving other plaintiffs, resolves the vast majority of the claims alleging sexual misconduct by James Heaps, a former UCLA Health physician,” according to a statement by UCLA officials. “The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values. We are grateful to all those who came forward, and hope this settlement is one step toward providing some level of healing for the plaintiffs involved.”
The agreement to settle sex abuse claims that were still remaining brings UCLA into a notorious club of major universities which have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to former students who were abused for years by gynecologists and coaches.
Last year, the University of Southern California (USC) paid more than $1 billion to settle sexual abuse allegations involving former gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall, who abused female USC students for decades. In January, the University of Michigan agreed to pay $490 million to settle sexual abuse claims by a deceased former sports doctor.
However, probably the highest profile case involved former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar, with testimony presented by more than 150 women and girls molested as young gymnasts during medical examinations since at least the early 1990s, while Nassar served a team physician and assistant professor at MSU, and as a USA Gymnastics Medical Coordinator.
In 2018, Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits filed by women who say they were abused by Nassar, and late last year USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee added another $380 million to settlement agreements involving women abused by Nassar.
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