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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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.

Under the stipulations of the proposed settlement, there exist three tiers of claims available to class members to apply for payments from the settlement fund:

  • Tier 1: Each Settlement Class Member, who can be identified through existing health center records, or who submits credible evidence of being a patient of Dr. Tyndall at the USC student health center for the period from July 14, 1997 through June 21, 2016, will be mailed a Claim Award in the form of a check for $2,500.  In addition, Settlement Class Members can choose to apply for additional compensation through Tier 2 or 3.
  • Tier 2: Each Settlement Class Member has the option to submit an online or written claim form (the “Claim Form”) describing her experience, the impact to her, and/or the damages she suffered. That Claim Form will be reviewed by a Court-appointed Special Master. If the Special Master determines that the Claim Form is credible, and that the conduct or statement(s) described fall outside the scope of accepted medical standards of care applicable during the relevant time, or that the conduct or statements are determined to otherwise be actionable, the claimant shall receive a Claim Award of no less than $7,500 and up to no more than $20,000.
  • Tier 3: Tier 3 is reserved for those Settlement Class Members who desire to provide further evidence of conduct by or statement(s) from Dr. Tyndall and their impact. Each Settlement Class Member who submits a Tier 3 claim will be interviewed by a forensic psychologist, or her team, or other experts, regarding the Settlement Class Member’s experience and its impact on her. The expert will provide an assessment to the Special Master. Based on all information, the Special Master will determine whether the Claim Form is credible, the conduct or statement(s) described fall outside the scope of accepted medical standards of care applicable during the relevant time, or the conduct or statements were otherwise actionable, and based on an assessment of the emotional distress and/or bodily injury to the claimant, the Special Master will recommend a Claim Award of no less than $7,500 and no more than $250,000.

In class actions, the court must approve attorneys’ fees and costs. USC and Dr. Tyndall have agreed to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs up to $25 million in addition to the settlement fund. This means Class Members may apply for the compensation described above, which will not be reduced by attorneys’ fees and costs.

The settlement is open to every woman who ever had an appointment with Dr. Tyndall, meaning many women who would have never have come forward may be awarded substantial compensation without having to go through the rigorous and much lengthier process of litigation.

We believe that among the best aspects of this proposed settlement for the class is that it gives you two things USC and Dr. Tyndall stole from you: privacy and a choice. Under this settlement, you have the benefit of participating as much or as little as you wish - the choice is yours.

Download the Settlement FAQ »

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about this case. We will continue to update you as developments happen.

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 »