AMANDA LEE MYERS
The University of Southern California on Friday announced a tentative agreement for a $215 million class-action settlement of claims involving alleged sexual harassment and abuse by a gynecologist who treated hundreds of students over decades.
The agreement will provide compensation ranging from $2,500 up to $250,000 to women who have claimed abuse by Dr. George Tyndall between 1988 and 2016, USC Interim President Wanda Austin said in a statement.
About 500 current and former students have now made accusations against Tyndall. They contend he routinely made crude comments, took inappropriate photos, forced them to strip naked and groped them under the guise of medical treatment.
The settlement specifically applies to a pending federal class-action lawsuit that involves about 40 women who have accused Tyndall, according to John Manly, an attorney who represents 180 women who have accused the gynecologist.
The hundreds of women who have filed various lawsuits against the university can join the lawsuit affected by the agreement but Manly said he is strongly advising his clients against doing so.
“The only guaranteed number in this case is $2,500,” Manly said, adding that “$2,500 won’t even get you a 50-yard-line seat at a USC football game, let alone compensate somebody for being sexually assaulted by their doctor when they were 18 or 17.”
He criticized the proposed settlement, which needs to be approved by a judge, as failing to hold USC accountable.
“We still don’t know when did USC first know, how often were they warned, what administrators were involved, was there criminal conduct?” Manly said. “Our clients, more than anything, want those answers and people held accountable, not because it helps their case but to protect the future women at USC.”
If the settlement is approved, any victims who have not yet come forward and filed legal action would be held to its terms, Manly said, adding that USC clearly wants to cap future monetary damages.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 36 women who have accused Tyndall, said in a statement that the amount of money under the proposed settlement “way too minimal.”
“In our opinion, for what some of the victims went through, this is a nuisance amount and may not properly compensate victims for what some of them have suffered,” she said, adding that her firm will continue to vigorously litigate their cases.
USC did not immediately respond to an email message seeking a response to Manly’s and Allred’s comments.
Tyndall spent about three decades as a USC staff gynecologist before retiring last year after a university investigation concluded there was evidence that Tyndall sexually harassed students during exams.
Tyndall has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime. His attorney, Leonard Levine, did not immediately respond Friday to email and phone messages seeking comment.
The university was first criticized in the case after the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year that complaints and comments about Tyndall’s care went unheeded by the school for decades and that USC failed to report him to the medical board even after the school quietly forced him into retirement.
Two administrators were fired and President C.L. Max Nikias stepped down following the criticism.
USC has denied accusations of a cover-up.
The Los Angeles police and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office are reviewing allegations against Tyndall.
Austin said in a statement that since she became interim university president, “a fair and respectful resolution for as many former patients as possible has been a priority for the university and for me personally.”
“Many sweeping changes have been made and we continue to work every day to prevent all forms of misconduct on our campuses, to provide outstanding care to all students, and to ensure we have policies and procedures that prioritize respect for our students and our entire university community,” she said.
On Thursday, 93 women who say Tyndall abused or harassed them announced the latest lawsuit against the university, saying it ignored decades of complaints.
“I am part of an accidental sisterhood of hundreds of women because the university we love betrayed our trust,” said Dana Loewy, who said Tyndall assaulted her during an exam in 1993.
Two women said they called USC’s hotline to report complaints against Tyndall but received no follow-up.
Associated Press writers John Antczak and Brian Melley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.