Female USC Students Sue University and Gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall for Decades-Long Sexual Violations

05/21/2018

Class-action lawsuit seeks to represent hundreds of Dr. Tyndall’s patients for molestation of female students, and USC’s cover-up

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LOS ANGELES – Attorneys from Hagens Berman are representing a proposed class of hundreds, if not thousands, of female students at the University of Southern California (USC) who suffered ­sexual violation at the hands of the university’s full-time gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, in a class-action lawsuit filed today against Dr. Tyndall, USC and its board of trustees.

According to recent investigations, Dr. Tyndall sexually harassed, abused, molested and engaged in wildly inappropriate behavior with female students who sought his medical care at USC’s student health clinic. News outlets state Dr. Tyndall oversaw tens of thousands of female patients during his time at USC. The university knew of his behavior since at least the 1990s but failed to take action.

The lawsuit, filed May 21, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California documents Dr. Tyndall’s misconduct, including complaints from chaperones who reported his behavior, including his common use of a camera during pelvic exams to take multiple pictures of hundreds of patients' genitals, and reports that he unnecessarily digitally penetrated his patients during exams.

If you were in any way violated or treated inappropriately by USC’s Dr. Tyndall during a medical examination, find out more about the lawsuit and your rights. Hagens Berman’s attorneys achieved a nationwide sexual harassment settlement on behalf of 16,000 women and also tried the first ever sexual harassment case in Washington state. The firm represents multiple women on behalf of a class of all victims who were harassed or otherwise assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, seeking to hold him and his co-conspirators accountable for a years-long pattern of sexual harassment and cover-ups.

According to the lawsuit, Dr. Tyndall’s sexual abuse extended to hundreds of female students, but in particular, staff were concerned he was targeting USC’s population of Chinese students, who were unfamiliar with standard gynecological exams, and an especially vulnerable population at USC. The suit states that, in his office, Tyndall had a map of China and encouraged women to point out their home province. He kept a bamboo plant, the traditional Chinese symbol of longevity and vitality, on a shelf above his desk. He sometimes showed off a photo of his Filipina wife and shared details of their relationship.

“USC violated its female students’ trust by knowingly putting women in the room for treatment by Tyndall, knowing that inappropriate physical contact and violations would occur,” the suit states. “In fact, USC nurses, chaperones and other staff members were regularly present in the examination rooms, observed the inappropriate sexual molestation, and took no steps to stop it as it occurred.”

The lawsuit brings various charges against USC, Dr. Tyndall and USC’s board of trustees including violations of Title IX, violation of the California Equity in Higher Education Act, gender violence, gross negligence, civil battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and others.

“For decades, USC has silenced the women who were violated in unspeakable ways by Dr. Tyndall, willfully ignoring the alarming complaints from nurses and patients as more and more students were sent into his office,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Our plaintiff and other women have bravely stepped forward to report these heinous acts, and through this lawsuit, we intend to hold defendants accountable.”

“It’s abundantly clear to anyone that USC should have acted swiftly to put an end to Dr. Tyndall’s inappropriate behavior, and an end to his license to practice, as soon as the school became aware in the 1990s,” Berman added. “Instead, USC chose to cover up Dr. Tyndall’s actions, and even worse, USC allowed them to continue, perpetuating Dr. Tyndall’s protection.”

USC’s Cover-up

According to its own website, USC provides its female students “a full range of women’s health care services including well women annual visits, testing, contraceptives and pregnancy counseling.”

The lawsuit states that official complaints of Dr. Tyndall's behavior began to surface at USC in the 1990s, but despite the university's knowledge of Dr. Tyndall's behavior, it did not report him to the agency responsible for protecting the public from problem doctors. USC did nothing for decades, according to the lawsuit.

“If USC had acted sooner – acted at all – it would have saved countless women from these horrific violations,” Berman said. “It is unquestionable that USC must be held responsible.”

Patients and nurses at USC accused Dr. Tyndall of "creepy" behavior, including inappropriate touching of his patients. Numerous USC supervisors and administrators became aware or observed it. Still, despite this knowledge, the university balked, allowing him to continue to practice. Not until 2016 was Dr. Tyndall finally suspended after a nurse approached USC's rape crisis center. According to the Los Angeles Times, "...in a secret deal last summer, top administrators allowed Tyndall to resign quietly with a financial payout."

Recent news headlines have brought these heinous acts to the forefront, and many victims have bravely stepped forward to tell their stories. Hagens Berman continues this fight, working to help achieve justice for those who have been victim to sexual violation, and enforce systemic change. Tell us about your case.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with 11 offices across the country. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at https://www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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02/14/19: Case Update

USC students and alumna have filed a class-Action settlement resolving claims related to gynecologist George Tyndall, M.D. that will require USC to adopt and implement procedures for identification, prevention and reporting of sexual and racial misconduct, as well as to recognize all of Tyndall’s patients through a $215 million fund that gives every survivor a choice in how to participate. The settlement is subject to court approval.

The settlement’s three-tier structure allows class members to choose how much they want to engage with the claims process. Those who do not want to revisit a private, traumatic event can simply keep the guaranteed Tier 1 payment of $2,500. Those who choose to provide additional information in a claim form about their experience with Tyndall and how it affected them are eligible for up to $20,000 and those who choose to provide an interview are eligible for up to $250,000. The special master and her team of experts will evaluate claims and allocate awards to Tier 2 and Tier 3 claimants. This focus on choice ensures that all class members receive compensation while giving each class member the autonomy to decide for herself how involved she wants to be in the settlement process.

Payment for each class member will be determined as follows:

Tier 1: Every class member is eligible for a Tier 1 payment of $2,500, simply by virtue of being a Class member. The Tier 1 payment is simply a guaranteed minimum payment; all class members are also eligible to make claims for Tier 2 or Tier 3 payments. Under no circumstances will a class member be required to return a Tier 1 payment.

Due to limitations in USC’s records, class members will receive their Tier 1 payments in one of two ways:

(i) Those class members identified through USC’s existing health center records (which cover the majority of the class period), will be automatically mailed a Tier 1 payment check for $2,500 once the settlement is final. Class members will be notified if they have been pre-identified as class members through USC’s records.

ii) Those class members who cannot be identified through USC’s records must submit (online or by mail) a simple signed Statement of class membership Form. The claims administrator will then confirm student status or, for non-students, evaluate the claimant’s evidence of Class membership. Tier 1 payments of $2,500 will be sent upon confirmation of class membership.

Tier 2: Each class member has the option to submit an online or written claim form describing her experience with Tyndall, the impact on her, and the harm she suffered. The special master’s team will assess each claim form, and if determined credible, and that the conduct or statements described fall outside the scope of accepted medical standards of care applicable during the relevant time, or that the conduct or statements are otherwise actionable, the special master will award a Tier 2 payment between $7,500 and $20,000.

Tier 3: Tier 3 is for class members who, in addition to the written claim form, are willing to provide information about their experience and its impact in an interview by the special master’s team. That team will assess each claim form and interview, and if determined credible, and that the conduct or statements described fall outside the scope of accepted medical standards of care applicable during the relevant time, or that the conduct or statements are otherwise actionable, the special master will award a Tier 3 payment between $7,500 and $250,000, subject to pro rata adjustments.

Some key features are:

  • Accountability: Defendants will pay a total sum of $215 million to the class, net of attorneys’ fees and costs. USC will implement institutional changes to protect students and prevent abuse. These changes were developed by leading experts in the field, and include policy and procedure changes at the USC Student Health Center; appointment of an independent women’s health advocate; and convention of a task force—including an independent expert specializing in university best practices related to prevention and response to sexual assault and misconduct—to recommend university-wide changes to prevent sexual violence on campus.
  • Immediacy and Certainty: Providing compensation to class members should not take years of risky and re-traumatizing litigation. The settlement offers guaranteed relief to victims far more quickly than protracted litigation with its uncertain results.
  • Choice and Sensitivity: The settlement’s three-tier claims structure allows class members to choose whether and in how much detail they wish to tell their story. Tier 1 is for those who do not wish to engage; every class member is eligible for a guaranteed minimum $2,500 payment, no questions asked. Those payments will be automatically sent to all known class members; any other class member need only submit a simple statement of class membership to claim her Tier 1 payment. In addition to the guaranteed minimum, every class member is eligible to make a claim for up to $250,000. Those who wish to tell their story in writing on a simple claim form are eligible for up to $20,000 (Tier 2). And those who choose to further engage by providing an interview are eligible for up to $250,000 (Tier 3). All Tier 2 and 3 claims will be evaluated by a court-appointed independent special master who will also make all allocation decisions.
  • Simplicity: The Settlement’s claims process is simple by design—no action for Tier 1, simple claim form for Tier 2, simple claim form and interview for Tier 3. This is to make the process easier and more comfortable for victims, and to ensure they can complete it without having to hire an attorney. To the extent any Class member wants help navigating even this simple process, Interim class counsel stand prepared to provide all necessary assistance, without reducing class members’ compensation by taking any attorneys’ fees or costs out of it.
  • Privacy: The settlement structure and process is designed to provide a safe, private place for victims to tell their stories—to the extent and in the way they choose—and get compensation for the harms they suffered without having to go through invasive, adversarial, public, slow and risky litigation.

11/08/18: CASE UPDATE

On October 19, 2018, hundreds of current and former students of the University of Southern California reached a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the university and Dr. George Tyndall for his alleged decades-long sexual abuse of patients that persisted despite USC’s knowledge.  The settlement provides for a $215 million common fund.

10/19/18:

$240 Million Proposed Settlement Reached in USC Gynecologist Sexual Abuse Class Action

Today, hundreds of current and former students of the University of Southern California reached a $240 million proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the university and its former gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, for his alleged decades-long sexual abuse of his patients that persisted despite USC’s knowledge, according to Hagens Berman. Read the press release »

10/04/18: Case Update

Hundreds of you have already come forward to speak your truth about the unacceptable behavior and abuse from USC's Dr. George Tyndall. Today, another woman has chosen to tell the world about the horrendous reality that women can and are abused by the people they entrust with their healthcare - their own family doctors and gynecologists. Renown journalist Connie Chung has bravely stepped into the spotlight to share her recollections and the aftermath of the assault she suffered. Read or listen here (content warning: sexual assault).

At Hagens Berman, we are fighting to make the world a safer place for women, both to come forward in safety and strength to speak about abuse, and to stop it from happening in the first place. Our attorneys welcome you to join our fight.

09/28/18: Firm Statement

At Hagens Berman, we believe no one is above the law, and that no position of power should shield someone from being held accountable.

Right now, we are witnessing the silencing, belittling and abuse that women everywhere in this nation are subjected to. They are subjected to a system that does not respect them. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s continued nomination to the Supreme Court, and the backlash against the brave survivors who have stepped forward to report sexual assault, are both unacceptable.

We believe survivors. Our firm’s sexual harassment attorneys have protected their rights for decades throughout their legal careers, and we are dedicated to upholding the rights of the most vulnerable. Women should be heard, respected and protected from systemic abuse.

08/27/18: Anonymity & Your Protection

Please note: Your protection is our firm's top priority. If you wish to remain anonymous in your potential case, Hagens Berman will request that the Court permit you to proceed anonymously as a Jane Doe. Remaining anonymous in filing your case will allow you to avoid the spotlight.

Our attorneys have experience in protecting plaintiffs who wish to remain anonymous, both as whistleblowers and as survivors of sexual misconduct.

08/27/18: Consolidated Complaint Filed

On Aug. 27, 2018, Hagens Berman, on behalf of the plaintiffs' executive committee filed a 141-page consolidated class-action complaint in order to streamline the lawsuit. The consolidated case for In Re: USC Student Health Center Litigation includes 51 total plaintiffs and an expanded fact section. This filing combines all of the firm’s previous filings, as well as those of other firms named to the suit’s leadership committee. This will be the operative complaint for the class action in federal court.

Read the consolidated complaint »

08/14/18: Cases Consolidated & Leadership Appointed

On Aug. 14, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson selected Hagens Berman to chair the committee prosecuting the lawsuit.

On June 22, 2018, the firm submitted documents proposing that the court consolidate the many filed cases against USC and Dr. Tyndall, in order to streamline the lawsuit. In consolidating class-action cases, the court routinely appoints leadership positions. Hagens Berman will be in charge of prosecuting the case on behalf of the class in federal court and will lead the court-appointed Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee consisting of Hagens Berman and two other prominent firms. read more »