UCLA to pay record nearly $700 million in doctor abuse lawsuits | Health info
By BRIAN MELLEY, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The University of California system announced Tuesday that it will pay nearly $375 million to more than 300 women who say they were sexually abused by a UCLA gynecologist, bringing a record amount of total payments by a public university in a wave of sexual misconduct scandals by campus doctors.
The settlement follows previous settlements with hundreds of other patients who said Dr James Heaps groped them, made suggestive comments or performed unnecessarily invasive exams during his 35-year career.
“Dr. Accumulates sexually abused patients for years as UCLA Health puts profits ahead of safety,” attorney Jennifer McGrath said in a statement. “Today’s settlement is the result of the bravery of these victims and sends the message that healthcare facilities must protect vulnerable patients and act decisively on complaints of abuse.
The university agreed to pay nearly $700 million to Heap patients, eclipsing a $500 million settlement by Michigan State University in 2018, 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 as the scandal unfolded, pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of allegedly sexually assaulting seven women.
The women who filed the lawsuits say UCLA ignored their complaints and deliberately covered up abuses that had occurred for decades during exams at the UCLA Student Health Center at Ronald Reagan Medical Center. from UCLA or at the Heaps campus office.
UCLA acknowledged receiving a sexual abuse complaint against Heaps from a patient in December 2017 and launched an investigation the following month that found she had been sexually assaulted and harassed, attorneys said.
Heaps, however, continued to practice until his retirement in June 2018. The university did not release its findings in the investigation until November 2019 — months after Heaps’ arrest.
The university previously struck deals with other Heaps patients for $316 million. The most recent settlement with 312 women resolves the vast majority of claims against Heaps, the university said.
“The conduct allegedly committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values,” UCLA said in a statement. “We are grateful to everyone who has come forward and hope this settlement is a step towards some level of healing for the plaintiffs involved.”
Sexual abuse by doctors on college campuses has led to massive settlements at Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University.
The state of Michigan paid $500 million to 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Larry Nassar, who was a campus sports physician and a physician for USA Gymnastics. Nassar, who has also sexually abused Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts, is serving prison sentences that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.
The University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 people who say they were sexually assaulted by the late Dr. Robert Anderson, during his nearly four-decade career as a sports physician at school.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.