USC settles another physician sexual misconduct case.
The University of Southern California (USC) has reached a settlement with 80 former students alleging they were all sexually abused by Dennis Kelly, a former campus physician who left his post in 2018. The year after he left, six male USC alumni disclosed that Kelly engaged in misconduct during their appointments with him, including performing rectal exams, and filed a sexual abuse lawsuit. They also accused the doctor of discriminating against them based on their sexual orientation and gender. The suit quickly grew from the original six plaintiffs to include 80 former students, mostly gay or bisexual men (with one now identifying as a female).
The plaintiffs stated that USC was aware of their complaints against the doctor but that it “failed to adequately address them.” Because the university did nothing about these complaints, Kelly was allowed to continue working with students until he eventually lost his license in 2020. Their attorneys said the sexual abuse lawsuit includes incidents that date as far back as the late 1990s and continued to occur for decades, with the last reported incident taking place in 2018.
“The settlement was achieved through the persistence and bravery of our clients who had the strength to come forward to share the harrowing details of their experiences at the USC Student Health Center and the determination to hold USC accountable for its failure to protect its students,” said attorney Mikayla Kellogg whose firm represented 57 of the plaintiffs. She added, “The settlement today is another step toward closure for our clients who finally feel a sense of recognition and validation for speaking up. Since the filing of the original civil lawsuit in 2019, 74 additional individuals have come forward, which has brought the total number of claimants to 80.”
Both the university and Kelly continue to deny the allegations but issued joint a statement regarding the settlement, saying, “USC and the students who made allegations against Dr. Dennis Kelly have reached a global settlement of the lawsuits. USC’s highest commitment is to the safety and health of all members of the Trojan community, including the current and former students involved in this matter. Settling the cases provides closure for all involved and avoids several more years of litigation.”
In 2020, USC also paid more than $850 million to hundreds of women (all former students) who alleged they were sexually harassed and/or abused by former campus gynecologist George Tyndall. Tyndall worked at the school for three decades. The women stated in their abuse lawsuit that the doctor, USC’s only full-time gynecologist at the time, “made lewd comments, photographed the women and groped them during medical examinations,” according to court records. The federal settlement guaranteed a minimum payout $2,500 to each woman who saw Tyndall during their time at the school, regardless of whether or not they formally accused him of harassment or assault. Those who brought their cases to court and gave detailed accounts received as much as $250,000, according to documents.
USC administers said they were “pleased with the court’s decision” at the time of Tyndall settlement. In a written statement, they responded, “This settlement provides respectful and confidential relief to Tyndall patients at the student health center and formalizes a broad array of campus reforms.”