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The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) says it will pay $73 million to settle allegations of sexual abuse involving former obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. James Heap, who was arrested in June 2019 on sexual battery charges.
The sexual abuse settlement agreement would resolve a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of more than 5,500 women who were patients of Heap, while he worked as a part-time gynecologist at UCLA from 1983 to 2010m before being hired by UCLA health in 2014, where he worked there until 2018. Heap also faces 20 felony charges of sexual assault by women who say he sexually abused them as patients.
UCLA indicates it removed Heap from clinical practice and investigated the allegations when they were brought to light. The university then fired Heap and reported him to the state medical board and law enforcement. To date, Heap has pled not guilty to the charges.
The class action lawsuit was initially filed in October 2019, by seven women who say they were abused during sexual examinations. Their charges are separate incidents from the felony counts against Heap and name both Heap and UCLA as defendants.
The settlement is expected to pay a minimum of $2,500, and up to a maximum of $250,000 to women who have brought forward claims. Some particular circumstances and cases may exceed that amount, however. Only a few details of the UCLA settlement agreement have been released.
University officials say they completed an independent review of the university’s response to sexual misconduct allegations earlier this year.
The case mirrors similar allegations brought against former University of Southern California (USC) gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, who also abused numerous female students there over the course of at least two decades. In February 2019, USC reached a $215 million settlement to resolve claims in that case.
Tyndall was allowed to retire in June 2017, and to date faces no criminal charges, despite dozens of claims he assaulted female patients, and made both sexually suggestive and racist comments for years.
While USC indicated it could find no evidence of criminal conduct, the University acknowledged in the statement that Tyndall’s behavior was unacceptable, and should not have been tolerated for so long.