USC Student Lawsuits Filed Over Health Center Sexual Assault by Gynecologist

The University of Southern California (USC) faces several lawsuits brought on behalf of patients treated at the student health center, including a USC student class action claim, alleging that a former gynecologist employed by the University was allowed to sexually assault and molest students for years. 

Six women have filed claims over the last several days over treatment provided by Dr. George Tyndall, who agreed to retire in June 2017. The actions were brought after the University President C.L. Max Nikias issued a letter on May 15, announcing the results of an investigation into allegations that the USC gynecologist sexually assaulted students.

While USC indicated that it could find no evidence of criminal conduct, the University acknowledged that Dr. Tyndall’s behavior, as reported through the years, was unacceptable and should not have been tolerated for so long.

According to allegations raised in the USC student lawsuits, the University knew or should have known about Tyndall’s behavior, based on numerous reports and complaints over the last two decades, and failed to protect patients from a sexual predator.

USC Sexual Assault Class Action

One of the complaints is a class action lawsuit (PDF) filed by Lucy Chi, a former patient of Tyndall. It was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on May 21, naming USC, it’s board of trustees, and Tyndall as defendants.

Chin indicates that she was a first year graduate student in 2012 when she saw Tyndall. She originally asked for a female doctor, but was told one would not be available for three weeks, while Tyndall had an open appointment slot in just a couple days after her inquiry.

When she arrived for her appointment, Tyndall told her she would have to wait an additional 30 minutes if she wanted a chaperone present to monitor the examination. She decided not to wait.

The lawsuit indicates that Tyndall’s demeanor made Chi uncomfortable, because he kept looking her up and down, and not displaying the more detached, professional demeanor of most male doctors. She indicates that he was acting both suggestive and nervous.

According to the complaint, Tyndall put on gloves and digitally penetrated her, claiming he wanted to make sure the speculum would fit. Then he began to move his fingers in and out of her, saying he wanted to loosen her up, continuing even when Chi told him that was not necessary.

When it came time for her breast exam, he asked her to expose both breasts and fondled them in a way that was atypical of Chi’s previous doctor visits and which seemed suggestive.

When the examination was over, the chaperone appeared, indicating that she had been waiting outside. Chi heard the chaperone ask Tyndall why he had not waited, since she told him she was only going on a short break.

The lawsuit notes that trust is an important factor in doctor-patient relationships, and for many of Tyndall’s alleged victims, that trust will be forever damaged.

“Tyndall violated this trust by causing physical contact, including in the form of sexual abuse, molestation, and unwanted touching, in violation of his female patients that was not for the purpose of providing medical care, but for the purpose of providing Tyndall with sexual gratification,” Chi’s lawsuit states. “USC violated its female students’ trust by knowingly putting women in the room for treatment by Tyndall, knowing that inappropriate physical contact and violations would occur. In fact, USC nurses, chaperones and other staff members were regularly present in the examination rooms, observed the inappropriate sexual molestation, and took no steps to stop it as it occurred.”

USC Accused Of Inaction

Tyndall’s behavior was only addressed by the university after a nurse, frustrated with the lack of response to numerous complaints, took the issue to the campus’s rape crisis center. That led to an investigation of Tyndall, along with a suspension of his duties, and eventually a deal between Tyndall and USC that culminated in his retirement.

The University only reported his activities to the California Medical Board in March, after Tyndall contacted USC indicating that he wanted his job back. However, the complaints date back to the early 2000’s.

Many of the women report that Tyndall digitally penetrated them without medical gloves, and commented on their sex lives and their genitals in an inappropriate manner. Some also said he had a tendency to make sexist and racist comments.

While the Los Angeles Police Department has been contacted about the incident by the university and attorneys representing some of his alleged victims, no criminal charges have yet been filed.


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