by Brian Meley
LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) – The University of California system announced Tuesday that it would pay nearly $375 million to more than 300 women who said they were sexually abused by a UCLA gynecologist, a public university official said. Bringing the record amount into the total payment. Sexual misconduct scandal by campus doctors.
The settlement followed previous deals with hundreds of other patients who said Dr. James Heaps groped them, made suggestive remarks or conducted unnecessarily aggressive exams during his 35-year career.
“Dr. continued to pile on sexually abused patients for years while UCLA Health leveraged their safety,” attorney Jennifer McGrath said in a statement. “Today’s agreement is a result of the bravery of these victims, and sends a message that health institutions must protect vulnerable patients and take decisive action on complaints of abuse.”
The university has agreed to pay approximately $700 million to HEAP patients, dwarfing a $500 million settlement by Michigan State University in 2018 that was considered the largest by a public university. The University of Southern California, a private institution, has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle thousands of cases against the school’s longtime gynecologist.
Heaps, 65, who retired after the scandal broke out, has pleaded not guilty to 21 felony counts for allegedly sexually assaulting seven women.
The women who brought the lawsuit said that UCLA ignored their complaints and deliberately concealed decades of abuse during exams at the UCLA Student Health Center, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or Heaps’ campus office.
Lawyers said UCLA acknowledged that it had received a sexual abuse complaint against Heaps from a patient in December 2017 and launched an investigation the following month, concluding that she had been sexually assaulted and harassed.
However, Heaps continued to practice until his retirement in June 2018. The university did not release its findings into the investigation until November 2019 – months after Heaps’ arrest.
The university had previously settled with other Heaps patients for $316 million. The university said the most recent settlement with 312 women resolves most of the claims against Heaps.
“The conduct alleged by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values,” UCLA said in a statement. “We are grateful to all who came forward, and hope that this settlement is a step toward providing some level of therapy for the plaintiffs involved.”
The university said it would pay for the settlements through a combination of insurance, risk financing and capital bond proceeds.
Sexual abuse by doctors on college campuses has led to mass settlements at Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University.
Michigan State paid $500 million to 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Larry Nassar, a campus sports doctor and a doctor for USA Gymnastics. Nassar, who also sexually abused Olympic gold medal gymnasts, is serving a prison sentence, which could potentially put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
The University of Michigan settled a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 people who said they were sexually assaulted by the late Dr. Robert Anderson during his nearly four-decade career as a sports doctor at the school.