LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge in Los Angeles signaled Monday he will approve the University of Southern California’s $215 million settlement over claims by former patients of campus gynecologist George Tyndall that he sexually abused them for decades.
Former patients said in their 2018 class action that Tyndall routinely made inappropriate, sexually suggestive comments, took photographs of them, groped them and forced them to strip naked during medical exams.
The university routinely ignored complaints from hundreds of students and alumni about Tyndall’s sexually abusive behavior for years, possibly as far back as 2000, the lawsuit said.
In February 2019, the former patients agreed to settle their claims with the university for $215 million.
Months later, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the parties to revise the proposed agreement in order to make clear the details on settlement payments and the implementation of campus reforms.
Wilson requested details on the amount of money class members would be awarded, which is tiered based on their individual interactions with Tyndall, and an assessment of the risk that the case might head to trial.
During a brief hearing Monday, Wilson indicated his requests were satisfied and that he is prepared to approve the settlement.
Based on Wilson’s suggestions, both parties have agreed to have a three-person panel determine the payment amounts to class members. The prior proposal had only a special monitor making payment determinations.
Wilson did not indicate when a final ruling would issue but asked the parties to identify the panel members – which will include two medical experts – within a week.
In a statement, counsel for plaintiffs celebrated Wilson’s likely approval of the settlement.
“We are pleased that Judge Wilson indicated that he intends to approve this historic settlement that will finally provide a measure of closure to thousands of survivors,” the statement said. “We are proud to have fought alongside them to forge a settlement that holds USC accountable and mandates groundbreaking reforms to prevent these types of abuses from ever occurring again.”
Class members are represented by Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, Annika Martin of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and Daniel Girard of Girard Sharp.
Berman told Wilson during the hearing that at least 600 class members have opted out of the agreement in order to pursue individual lawsuits against the university.
In a statement, a USC spokesperson said the university applauds the outcome of Monday’s hearing.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision to order final approval of the federal class action settlement,” the university said. “This settlement provides respectful and confidential relief to Tyndall patients at the student health center and formalizes a broad array of campus reforms.”
The agreement also promises robust changes to university policies, including mandated background checks on all physicians and campus training on identifying and preventing sexual abuse and racism.
Former patients can receive anywhere between $2,500 and $250,000, depending on whether they speak in person with an abuse claims assessor or submit written testimony.
Tyndall, who has denied the allegations, resigned in 2017 after 30 years with the university.
Under the settlement, Tyndall does not acknowledge any wrongdoing or personally contribute financially to the payout.
Tyndall has pleaded not guilty to criminal sexual abuse and misconduct charges and is awaiting trial in LA County while free on bond.
An attorney for Tyndall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.