Judge OKs $73M payout to alleged UCLA doctor sex victims

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge on Monday gave final approval to a $73 million settlement of a lawsuit that alleged some 6,000 women were sexually abused by a former University of California, Los Angeles gynecologist.

The 2019 class-action suit involved allegations that from 1983 to 2018, Dr. James Heaps groped women, simulated intercourse with an ultrasound probe or made inappropriate comments during examinations at the UCLA student health center, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or his on-campus office.

The suit also accused UCLA of failing to take action against Heaps despite complaints and of having a “policy of indifference” to reports of sexual misconduct.

More than 100 of Heaps’ former patients had made allegations or filed individual lawsuits, but the class-action suit includes all potential victims. Each will receive between $2,500 and $250,000, with the higher amounts involving the extent of bodily injury and emotional distress as decided by a panel of experts.

UCLA didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing in reaching the settlement last year, but the university did agree to change its procedures for preventing, identifying, investigating and dealing with sexual misconduct. That included requiring a trained chaperone to be present during intimate physical examinations of patients age 8 or older unless they opt out.

“While we can’t comment on the specifics of today’s legal action, we can say unequivocally that sexual misconduct or abuse is inexcusable. We remain committed to providing quality care that respects the dignity of every patient,” said a statement from UCLA Health.

The university has said its investigation into Heaps began in December 2017. He retired in 2018 when the university declined to renew his contract.

Heaps, 64, also faces 21 criminal charges of sexual abuse offenses involving seven women.

He has denied wrongdoing.

In March, UCLA’s cross-town rival, the University of Southern California, agreed to an $852 million settlement with more than 700 women who accused its longtime campus gynecologist of sexual abuse.

That agreement is believed to be a record amount for such a case. It dwarfs the $500 million that Michigan State University agreed to pay in 2018 to settle claims against sports doctor Larry Nassar.

When combined with a $215 million settlement of a separate class-action suit, USC agreed to pay out over $1 billion for claims against 74-year-old Dr. George Tyndall, who worked at the school for nearly 30 years.

Tyndall faces 35 criminal counts of sexual misconduct between 2009 and 2016. He has pleaded not guilty.