An $851.6 million settlement has been reached in the George Tyndall case involving sexual assault at the University of Southern California (USC). The former USC gynecologist has surrendered his medical license, as hundreds of women came forward with allegations of misconduct against Tyndall.
His conduct included inappropriate touching, photographing sensitive body parts, making inappropriate comments about their bodies, and performing medically unnecessary physical exams. These experiences have left many of the victims with deep-seated trauma and long-term psychological damage. The financial compensation achieved by the settlement will help victims obtain the resources and justice needed for their losses.
The grand total awarded is $851.6 million for 710 plaintiffs. This is broken down into two settlements of $842.4 million for 702 plaintiffs and $9.2 million for 8 plaintiffs.
This is the largest settlement for sexual abuse in history — larger than those involving the Catholic Church and the Michigan State University incidents.
Jeff Milman, a senior partner of Orange County-based Hodes Milman, LLP stated:
“On behalf of our entire law firm, my partner Dan Hodes, and my hard-working colleagues, John Manly, Vince Finaldi, Andy Rubenstein and Michael Pierce and other dedicated legal teams, it gives me great pride to know that we have been able to financially recover on behalf of over 850 women who may now close this chapter in their lives. We worked together in an unprecedented action, changing California laws so all sexual assault survivors could seek justice even after decades had passed, and remain anonymous to protect their identities. USC’s cooperation in resolving these claims is acknowledged, and we hope this sends a message for the future that sexual accusations must be handled swiftly or the consequences will be severe.”
The case average for Hodes Milman, LLP clients who were assaulted by Tyndall is about $1.2 million. This is significantly larger than those who joined the class action, who on average received around $2,500 or higher per case.
Additional Outcomes of the Lawsuit
Besides financial compensation for the victims, the legal action has initiated a number of changes that will help encourage reporting and monitoring of such incidents.
Statute of Limitations
Our work resulted in a lifting of the statute of limitations (SOL), allowing more victims to come forward and file their claims. We visited the state capitol in Sacramento in order to fight for this important procedural change.
One of the main challenges with sexual abuse cases is that the victim is often hesitant to come forward. A lifting of the filing deadlines thus allowed those victims who feel silenced to share their stories and obtain the closure and justice they deserve.
Changes to USC’s Policies and Standards
A combination of factors at the USC campus contributed to the environment that allowed Tyndall’s actions to persist and be repeated over years.
For instance, a federal investigation revealed that USC mishandled Tyndall’s sexual abuse reports for decades, and failed to act on years of reports of his abusive actions. Many turned a blind eye to the allegations that had been accruing. The findings further reveal that even the university’s top brass knew about allegations against Tyndall, but failed to disclose them to federal agents. This type of “conspiracy of silence” often exists in institutional settings, and dismantling this veil of secrecy and inaction is an important part of bringing perpetrators to justice.
In response, USC reached an agreement with the Education Department to create a centralized record-keeping system. This will track misconduct complaints against campus employees and monitor the actions school officials take in response. USC President Carol Folt stated that the university will be complying with the department’s orders, and that the school is “implementing changes necessary to inform its future.”
Thus, besides monetary compensation, the lawsuit has brought about several significant changes, many of which will bring about real change in the realm of sexual harassment law and policy. It is a testament to the power and potential that legal action has to effectuate real change in our communities.
A Collaborative Team Effort
We at Hodes Milman, LLP would also like to thank all of those who were involved in the project, including John Manly, Vince Finaldi, Michael Pierce, and additional legal colleagues. They devoted countless hours to this project and contributed to its overall success.
Sexual abuse is an egregious crime that can derail the lives of victims and leave them with life-long scars. We are adamant that our work in this area will help pave the way for future changes that will provide greater protection in universities and medical settings throughout the country.
If you believe that you have been a victim of sexual misconduct, know that you are not alone in your struggles. Reach out to us for guidance and counseling on your legal rights and how to proceed. Speaking out and taking action may help reveal other violations and can help put a stop to systemic, recurring abuses.