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USC’s Landmark $215 Million Sex Abuse Settlement Gets Final Approval

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U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of California has approved a landmark $215 million class action settlement between the University of Southern California and alleged victims of Dr. George Tyndall, a USC gynecologist accused of sexually abusing thousands of women over several decades.

Court documents indicate the putative class of patients and alleged victims claim that Dr. Tyndall “conducted pelvic exams with ungloved hands, performed inappropriate and unnecessary breast exams, asked inappropriate questions about students’ sexual practices, and made sexually suggestive remarks about patients’ bodies during the course of his examinations.” Tyndall treated students at the school’s health center between 1989 and 2017.

 Approximately 18,000 alleged victims and patients of Tyndall will be covered by the settlement, which stipulates that receiving a financial award is not contingent on a victim having officially accused him of abuse. Each former patient is entitled to at least $2,500, and many will receive much more, with some class members reportedly receiving $250,000 from USC.

Patient awards will be calculated through a process with the special master, who will work with a three-member panel of experts in gynecology and psychology. Together they will make the final determination on payout amounts, which can fall into one of three tiers. According to the settlement agreement, where survivors fall within those three tiers depends on the severity of the alleged injuries and the willingness of class members to disclose their allegations to the panel.

According to the plaintiffs’ motion, this decision represents the largest-ever class action settlement of sexual abuse claims.

Additionally, Tyndall faces a number of felony charges pertaining to the allegations in Los Angeles Superior Court. He has pled not guilty.

Furthermore, beyond the landmark settlement, institutional changes will reportedly be implemented at USC to ensure that such a systemic culture of abuse never occurs in the future. USA Today reports that, following a two-year investigation by the government into Tyndall’s time at the university, a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and USC “now requires the university to overhaul its processes for following Title IX — the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education. It also requires the university to conduct a formal review of current and former employees and to allow government oversight for three years.”

The Title IX changes come following the investigation’s findings that “Tyndall had been able to sexually abuse female students since as far back as 1989 because the university repeatedly failed to respond appropriately to notices of possible misconduct.” In a public statement, U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, declared, “This total and complete failure to protect students is heartbreaking and inexcusable.”

Kenneth Marcus, assistant secretary for civil rights, confirmed to USA Today that the two-year undertaking represents “one of the largest sexual misconduct investigations ever undertaken by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.”