A lawsuit against a former University of California, Los Angeles gynecologist is coming to a close with the announcement of a $73 million settlement.
Earlier this week, a federal judge gave the final approval for a $73 million settlement over a lawsuit that alleged about 6,000 women were “sexually abused by a former University of California, Los Angeles gynecologist.” The class-action suit was filed in 2019 and the allegations spanned from 1983 to 2018.
The allegations claimed that “Dr. James Heaps groped women, simulated intercourse with an ultrasound probe or made inappropriate comments during examinations at the UCLA student health center, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or his on-campus office.” Additionally, the suit argued that UCLA failed to take action against Heaps, “despite complaints and of having a policy of indifference to reports of sexual misconduct.”
While more than 100 former patients have filed lawsuits over the years, the class-action lawsuit includes any and all potential victims. As the settlement agreement stands right now, each victim will receive anywhere between $2,500 and $250,000. Higher amounts will be given to those who sustained bodily injury and great emotional distress and will be decided by a panel of experts.
During the litigation process, UCLA did not acknowledge wrongdoing. However, the university agreed to “change its procedures for preventing, identifying, investigating and dealing with sexual misconduct.” Those changes include “requiring a trained chaperone to be present during intimate physical examinations of patients age 8 or older unless they opt-out.”
UCLA Health issued the following statement:
“While we can’t comment on the specifics of today’s legal action, we can say unequivocally that sexual misconduct or abuse is inexcusable. We remain committed to providing quality care that respects the dignity of every patient.”
When discussing the investigation prior to the settlement, the university said an investigation into the allegations began in December 2017. When his contract with the university was not renewed, he retired in 2018. Now, at the age of 64, he faces “21 criminal charges of sexual abuse offenses involving seven women.” Despite the allegations, he has denied wrongdoing.
UCLA isn’t the only university medical facility to settle a lawsuit over sexual abuse allegations. In fact, in March, “the University of Southern California agreed to an $852 million settlement with more than 700 women who accused its longtime campus gynecologist of sexual abuse.” Then in 2018, Michigan State University settled a lawsuit against Larry Nassar, a sports doctor. USC also paid out over $1 billion to settle claims “against 74-year-old Dr. George Tyndall, who worked at the school for nearly 30 years.”