USC payment on gynecologist’s sexual abuse amounts to $ 1 billion

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USC payment on gynecologist's sexual abuse amounts to $ 1 billion


USC has agreed to pay more than $ 1.1 billion to former patients of campus gynecologist George Tyndall, the largest sexual abuse payment in the history of higher education.
The huge sum was revealed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday as lawyers for a final group of 710 women suing the university told a judge they had settled their claims for $ 852 million.

USC previously agreed to pay thousands of other alumni and students $ 215 million in a federal class action settlement in 2018. A cluster of about 50 other cases have been settled for an amount that didn’t has not been made public.

The only full-time gynecologist at the Student Health Clinic from 1989 to 2016, Tyndall was accused of preying on a generation of USC women. After The Times revealed his troubled college story three years ago, the 74-year-old was stripped of his medical license and arrested. He has pleaded not guilty to dozens of sexual assault charges and is awaiting trial.

USC President Carol Folt, who was appointed in 2019 to reform the university following the scandal, said in a letter to the school community that she hoped the settlement “will bring some relief to women. abused by George Tyndall ”.

“I am deeply sorry for the pain felt by the women who trusted him as a doctor and appreciate the courage of all who stepped forward,” she wrote.

The USC settlement overshadows recent payments in other college scandals. Michigan State University paid $ 500 million in connection with Larry Nasser’s sexual abuse of gymnasts and others, while Penn State settled Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse claims for more than $ 109 million.

Two mediators, Jeffrey Krivis and Superior Court Judge Daniel Buckley, who reviewed the evidence, recommended the figure of $ 852 million. USC’s board of directors unanimously approved the amount, according to President Rick Caruso.

The total price of $ 1.1 billion reflected several factors. A 2019 state law, backed by former patients and their lawyers, temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for some sexual assault lawsuits, allowing women to sue for dates with Tyndall going back years. 1990.

The large number of potential victims, some 17,000 women treated by Tyndall for three decades, also made a massive settlement inevitable.

University attorney general Beong-Soo Kim called the large number of accusers involved a “major factor” in the amount of the settlement.

“If you look at the number per complainant, I think the calculation is very comparable with the SSM regulation,” Kim said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs were also armed with evidence that university officials had known problems with the doctor for decades and failed to fire him. Internal staff files detailed how complaints against Tyndall were mistreated or ignored over and over again, failures that led the US Department of Education to sanction the university last year.

“Institutions aren’t paying a billion dollars because nothing happened or they’re not responsible,” said John Manly, whose Orange County law firm was co-lead counsel for the women pursuing university. “We were able to prove in court that USC had known for almost 30 years that Tyndall was assaulting patients.”

A few years after Tyndall’s arrival, clinic supervisors learned from a patient and colleagues that the doctor was taking photos of students’ genitals, according to a 2018 Times investigation. Photos were later found. in his personal warehouse and in his office.

Nursing “chaperones” who monitored his pelvic exams complained that he had used a curtain to obscure their view. The students told the clinic workers that he asked ridiculous questions about their sex lives and made suggestive comments about their bodies. Nurses have reported for years inappropriately touching students during vaginal exams, with at least one colleague threatening to go to the police.

It was only after a frustrated nurse, Cindy Gilbert, reported Tyndall’s misconduct to the campus rape crisis center in 2016 that USC suspended him and launched an internal investigation. Tyndall was allowed to quietly quit with payment the following year, and USC never alerted the California Medical Board until The Times began contacting USC staff about him.

Caruso, the billionaire developer who was elected shortly after the Tyndall scandal broke, acknowledged the institutional failures in a letter to the community describing the settlement as “the end of a painful and ugly chapter in the history of our university ”.

“Our institution has failed in not doing all it can to protect those who matter most to us – our students,” Caruso wrote.

The $ 852 million settlement will be paid over two years. USC said the money would come from insurance proceeds as well as financial reserves, the postponement of investment projects, the sale of certain “non-core assets” and the belt tightening.

“No philanthropic donations, endowments or tuition fees will be redirected from their intended purposes,” Folt wrote in his letter to the community.

In an interview, she said she anticipates “tough choices” in the years to come, noting that USC already has a $ 200 million budget deficit due to the pandemic. Folt said administrators would review planned improvement projects and look for savings on discretionary spending, such as travel and entertainment.

“There’s nothing critical that isn’t happening at USC because of this,” Caruso said. “The student experience and the quality of education will not be affected.”

The 710 women who were part of Thursday’s settlement will receive an average payment of $ 1.2 million, although the exact allocation of the money is expected to vary based on individual claims and ultimately be determined by an arbitrator in the coming months.

Former USC Nicole Haynes, 46, was one of the women. She said Tyndall performed an unnecessary pelvic exam on her in 1995 after seeking treatment for food poisoning. The incident left her feeling raped, she said, and she applauded the settlement as a way to hold the university accountable.

“I’m a die-hard Trojan horse, and I dug it into my daughters’ heads too, but I didn’t feel comfortable sending it out there after that,” Haynes said. “Pay a billion dollars and come together. All the other universities, if you don’t want to pay a billion dollars, come together too. ”

None of the women in the final settlement have confidentiality agreements with USC or Tyndall, according to Mike Arias, who was also a senior co-advocate for former patients suing the university.

“When there is confidentiality, the conversation ends, and that’s not a situation where the conversation should end,” Arias said. “A lot of women wanted to talk about what had happened so that it couldn’t happen again.”

The college’s treatment of Tyndall sparked outrage on campus and led to the ousting of President CL Max Nikias. Despite offering multiple apologies, Nikias insisted he only learned of the allegations against the gynecologist in 2017, long after Tyndall left.

In recent years of litigation, dozens of USC officials have sat down for depositions, including Caruso, former provost Michael Quick, clinic nurses and medical staff. Fifteen former patients also answered questions under oath. Lawyers attempted to question Tyndall about his behavior, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The university has hired at least three law firms to defend lawsuits in state and federal courts, and USC’s Legion of Lawyers have consistently objected to the disclosure of sensitive internal files, including emails. between directors, separation agreements with former directors and correspondence with his crisis communication firm. The cost of USC’s legal defense is separate from settlements and has run into tens of millions of dollars, according to the university’s general counsel.

Lawyers for Tyndall’s patients were planning to grill Nikias under oath this winter, but the deposition seemed to have been postponed and, in the end, he was not required to sit for questions.

Nikias remains a faculty member and administrator without voting rights. He has an office on campus as President Emeritus.

When asked if the university was re-examining its status in light of the regulations, Caruso said the terms of Nikias’ initial contract limited what USC could do.

“I think it’s a time when Max really has to think about what’s best for the university, what’s best for the students, and make a decision himself,” Caruso said. “I think the answer to that is clear, but I think it’s up to him to answer.

Thursday’s state court settlement comes as former patients who have joined the federal class action lawsuit receive notice of their individual payments. In this lawsuit, USC agreed to pay $ 2,500 to each patient who saw Tyndall, whether or not they accused him of misconduct.

Patients were eligible to receive payments of up to $ 250,000 after attending interviews to describe Tyndall’s conduct and its impact on their lives, although the average payment among this group of patients was $ 96,330, according to reports. court documents filed this week.

In announcing the settlement, university officials noted the reforms instituted as a result of Tyndall’s tenure. The student health center is now managed by Keck Medicine, the medical school and the university health system. The clinic where Tyndall practiced employs more female gynecologists and the Rape Crisis Center, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Program, which responded to the nurse’s complaint against the doctor, added 10 time workers. full.

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