University of Southern California to Pay $215 Million in Gynecologist Sex-Abuse Case


LOS ANGELES—The University of Southern California has agreed to pay $215 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought against it by women who have accused a former campus gynecologist, George Tyndall, of sexual abuse and misconduct.

It’s among the largest settlements ever for a university over sexual-misconduct claims.

The money will be available to thousands of women who were treated by Mr. Tyndall during his nearly 30-year tenure at the private Los Angeles university, including both those who do and don’t claim he abused them. The settlement, reached in a class action in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and subject to court approval, will offer larger payouts to women who allege they suffered the worst abuse.

The deal won’t put an end to the legal battles surrounding the scandal that has rocked USC for the past six months and led to the resignation of its former president, C.L. Max Nikias. Women can still opt out of the settlement and pursue claims independently. The university also faces dozens of separate lawsuits filed in state court.

Under the settlement agreement, former patients will receive a minimum of $2,500. Those with the most severe claims who tell their stories and speak to a psychologist can receive up to $250,000.

In a letter being sent to the school community Friday, USC Interim President Wanda Austin said the $215 million settlement is “an important step forward,” and that she hopes it can “help our community move collectively toward reconciliation.”

Annika Martin, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP who represents the plaintiffs, said that while money alone can never truly compensate her clients, “this settlement sends a powerful message and ensures that these women can get some measure of justice.”

The school will cover the settlement costs with reserve funds and will work to be reimbursed by its insurance carriers, according to a person familiar with the litigation funding plan. The person said USC will not use tuition or donor funds.

Mr. Tyndall is accused in court filings of engaging in alleged inappropriate practices including conducting medically unnecessary pelvic exams, making sexually and racially inappropriate remarks, digitally penetrating patients, and asking students to take off all of their clothes in front of him.

An attorney for Mr. Tyndall said he unequivocally denies any claims of sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse and that his patient examinations at USC “were performed for the stated medical purpose and within the standard of care for gynecologists practicing in the community during the relevant time periods.”

The federal lawsuit, filed against Mr. Tyndall, USC and its board of trustees, accused the university of violating students’ trust and failing to stop the gynecologist’s alleged misconduct despite receiving complaints.

The Los Angeles Police Department has said it is conducting a criminal probe. Mr. Tyndall hasn’t been charged with any crime.

Mr. Tyndall’s alleged misconduct first came to light in a Los Angeles Times investigation published in May. Civil lawsuits and investigations quickly followed.

Mr. Tyndall left USC in June 2017 after reaching a settlement with the school, USC has said. He can no longer practice medicine after agreeing in late August to an interim suspension of his medical license by the Medical Board of California.

Mr. Tyndall had been placed on leave after the school’s Office of Equity and Diversity received a complaint in June 2016. The school said it found files in the office of a former health-center director detailing complaints against Mr. Tyndall dating to 2000, and has said “it is not clear today why” he remained in his position during that span.

This is the second nine-figure settlement that a university has reached this year over sexual-misconduct complaints against a doctor. Michigan State University in May announced that it would pay $500 million to more than 300 victims of sexual abuse by sports-medicine doctor Larry Nassar. Michigan State is funding that settlement with a bond.

The U.S. Education Department in June launched an investigation into how USC handled the sexual-harassment complaints against Mr. Tyndall. It said at the time that USC didn’t disclose any complaints against the doctor during an earlier, unrelated federal investigation that covered allegations against faculty and staff in the 2010 to 2013 academic years.

The Education Department said the school also didn’t disclose the complaints while negotiating a resolution to the prior investigation; that agreement was finalized in January of this year.

“We welcome the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation and the university will fully cooperate with their inquiry,” Rick Caruso, chairman of USC’s board of trustees, said in June.

Write to Sara Randazzo at sara.randazzo@wsj.com and Melissa Korn at melissa.korn@wsj.com



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