USC to pay out $1.1 billion over gynaecologist abuse allegations

George Tyndall has pleaded not guilty to dozens of assault charges

March 26, 2021
University of Southern California

The University of Southern California has agreed to pay at least $1.1 billion (£800 million) to thousands of patients of a campus gynaecologist accused of sexual assault, the largest such payout ever in US higher education.

USC reached the total by approving a sum of $852 million for a final group of 710 women who were patients of George Tyndall during his work there from 1989 to 2016.

Thousands of other current and former students of the private Los Angeles university settled earlier for a collective sum of $215 million, while settlements in about 50 other cases have not been publicly disclosed.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2018 that USC officials had been told about alleged sexual assaults early in Dr Tyndall’s tenure at the university’s student health clinic.

He treated 17,000 women during that time. His alleged actions included taking photographs of students’ genitals and sharing them with others, touching students inappropriately during vaginal exams, and commenting on their bodies and sex lives, the Times reported.

The case forced the 2018 resignation of C. L. Max Nikias as USC’s president, and tops a list of several major scandals involving money and sex that have developed during USC’s quick rise to become a major research institution.

After the $852 million settlement was approved in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Dr Nikias’ successor, Carol Folt, wrote to the USC community with expressions of sorrow and a commitment to keep implementing change.

Reforms include hiring more women as campus physicians, allowing gender choice in selecting them, and creating new systems for reporting concerns, Professor Folt said.

“I do hope this much-needed resolution provides some relief to the women abused by George Tyndall,” the USC president said in her letter to the campus community.

“I am deeply sorry for the pain experienced by the women who trusted him as a physician and appreciate the courage of all who came forward.”

The US Department of Education also has imposed penalties on USC in the matter.

USC has an endowment of nearly $6 billion, but Professor Folt promised not to use it to cover the settlements. Instead, she said, USC will rely on sources that include insurance, deferred spending, assets sales, “and careful management of nonessential expenses”.

“We will not jeopardise our academic excellence,” she promised.

Dr Tyndall, 74, has pleaded not guilty to dozens of sexual assault charges, and has been under house arrest while awaiting trial.

USC’s total settlement is twice that accepted by victims of Larry Nassar, the physician convicted of criminal sexual conduct after similar behaviour with students at Michigan State University and Olympic athletes.

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