MYTH: U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson believes the class action settlement is unfair and arbitrary; that is why he declined to grant preliminary approval.
FACT: Judge Wilson is rightly scrutinizing this important settlement and has asked for additional information on specific subject areas, which class counsel – in consultation with survivors – are working to provide to resolve the judge’s concerns.
Notably, Judge Wilson stated in his order, "The Court takes no issue with the substantive terms of settlement between Plaintiffs and Defendants, and the Court believes that the proposed settlement, as is, ultimately may be fair and reasonable under the prevailing standards."
MYTH: The class action settlement prevents survivors from filing individual lawsuits.
FACT: Women can choose to opt-out of the class action settlement and pursue their civil claims in court if they believe that is what is best for them. The settlement does not prevent any woman from pursuing her claim in court – instead, it simply provides an additional choice for survivors in how they wish to pursue their claims, if at all. Without the settlement, a survivor’s only choice is litigation. With the settlement, a survivor can still choose litigation if she wishes, or she can choose to participate in the settlement. The settlement increases choices for survivors; it doesn’t prevent anyone from doing anything.
MYTH: The class action settlement does not have the support of survivors.
FACT: There has been overwhelming support from survivors in favor of the settlement. Survivors support the settlement because it offers them a quicker, safer, and more private way to hold USC and Tyndall accountable. It acknowledges all women regardless of whether they are willing to publicly share their stories and does so without the risk and trauma of litigation where anonymity is impossible and success is not guaranteed. Importantly, the settlement goes beyond monetary compensation and forces USC to implement real, long-term reforms to their policies and procedures to create a safe environment for all future Trojan students.
Meggie Kwait, class representative, attended USC from 2005 to 2009
“When I joined a class action lawsuit against USC, I learned that the Trojan Family isn’t an illusion. Hundreds of my Trojan sisters are standing together, crying #MeToo, and demanding that future generations of Trojan women will not be shamed into silence. The settlement our attorneys negotiated requires USC to implement structural changes to prevent and report abuse in the health center and beyond, so their voices will be heard.”
Elisabeth Treadway, class member, attended USC from 1997 to 2001
“Before deciding to file a lawsuit against USC and Tyndall, I questioned how much of this horrible experience I could handle reliving and for how long. To see a fair and compassionate settlement proposed has been a relief. Settling this matter and finally being acknowledged will allow me to continue further on my healing journey.”
Vanessa Carlisle, class member, attended USC from 2011 to 2016
“By offering compensation to all of Tyndall’s former patients, the settlement tacitly assumes that if you saw Dr. Tyndall, something unpleasant and potentially traumatizing happened. Survivors will not be grilled in order to receive compensation. They will be believed. If a class member chooses to tell her story, she can move into a different tier of compensation.”
MYTH: The class action settlement will not lead to real change at USC.
FACT: The class action settlement goes beyond monetary compensation and forces USC to implement real changes to their policies and procedures to help ensure this doesn't happen again. These changes include:
Read more about changes the settlement requires USC to make here [link to equitable relief provisions and the equitable committee report]
MYTH: The class action settlement gives no insight on who knew what and when, and there was no disclosure of documents or discovery conducted.
FACT: We know who is at fault: George Tyndall and USC. Nothing will change this fact.
During litigation and as part of the settlement process, class counsel sought formal and informal discovery. USC responded to these discovery requests by producing documents, providing information, and making their data and records experts available on several occasions to answer questions concerning the substance and analysis of USC's records concerning Tyndall's patients and complaints about Tyndall’s misconduct over the years. This extensive fact-finding provided the information necessary to zealously negotiate the settlement on behalf of survivors.
That said, the settlement does not stop any other fact-finding efforts from going forward, such as the ongoing criminal or Department of Education investigations, journalistic investigations, or discovery in any individual survivor’s litigation.
Some survivors have been waiting for justice for 20 or 30 years. It is past time for them to be acknowledged, obtain a measure of closure, and move forward. The settlement would never have been agreed to or garnered the support of survivors if it did not provide significant benefits to them.
MYTH: The settlement is an attempt to limit the rights of survivors and force them into a bad deal.
FACT: The settlement is a choice; it is not mandatory. Hundreds of survivors want to be a part of the settlement because it offers them a safe and private way to seek justice. But no one has to be a member of the settlement – anyone can opt out. The fact is, the settlement increases choices for survivors; it doesn’t force anyone to do anything. It acknowledges all women regardless of whether they are willing to publicly share their story and does so without the risk and trauma of litigation where anonymity is impossible. Importantly, the settlement goes beyond compensation and forces USC to implement real, long-term reforms to their policies and procedures to create a safe environment for all future Trojan students.
MYTH: A group of attorneys decided what was best for survivors.
FACT: The lawyers who negotiated the settlement on behalf of their clients and other survivors – plaintiffs' class counsel – did so with extensive input and guidance from hundreds of Tyndall survivors as to what they experienced, what harm they suffered, and what recompense was most important to them. In addition to guidance from survivors, class counsel sought guidance from the Special Master who oversaw the allocation process in the recent John Hopkins sex abuse cases as well as several experts working with sexual assault victims, diagnosing and treating PTSD, and implementing institutional policy and procedure changes to prevent sexual abuse in educational and medical contexts. Throughout the process, the court-appointed class counsel has constantly consulted survivors and kept their best interest at the forefront of any decision.
Parties engaged retired U.S. District Court Judge Hon. Layn R. Phillips, one of the most well-respected and experienced mediators in the country who also mediated the Michigan State University settlement. A federal judge is overseeing the process and must grant approval of the settlement for it to become effective.
Shannon O’Conner, class representative, attended USC from 1991 to 1995
“The lawyers consulted with us every step of the way to make sure the settlement was what we wanted. I support the settlement because it recognizes every survivor abused by Tyndall and gives us a choice in how much or how little we want to participate. No one is forced to participate, and some women may decide to opt out, but survivors deserve an option that allows them to be compensated without having to file an individual lawsuit."
MYTH: Survivors are only guaranteed $2,500, a token meant to silence survivors and allow USC to move on.
FACT: No amount of money can fully heal or address the harm endured by survivors. $2,500 is the automatic minimum amount each survivor will receive, no questions asked, just for being a class member. The settlement includes this guaranteed minimum to ensure all class members get some compensation, even if they don’t want to provide any information about their experience with Tyndall; the guaranteed minimum also recognizes that all women seeking medical treatment at the USC student health center were put in harm’s way regardless of whether they suffered abuse by Tyndall. Women who choose to engage further in the process and share their story – in a safe and private way – are eligible for up to $250,000 in compensation.
Another way to look at it is this: the guaranteed minimum recovery from the settlement is $2,500, while the guaranteed minimum recovery from litigation is $0.
Importantly, the settlement does not silence anyone. Women who participate in the settlement are welcome to publicly share their story at any point if they so choose; there is no “gag” provision whatsoever in the settlement.
MYTH: A $215 million class action settlement is not enough money for the trauma and pain survivors endured.
FACT: While no amount of money can fully heal or address the harm endured by survivors, having USC pay $215 million can help give survivors a measure of closure. Any woman who does not feel the monetary recovery offered by the settlement is enough is free to opt out and pursue her claim in court.
MYTH: California Assembly Bill 1510 undermines the settlement as it will lead women to opt out and cause the settlement to fall apart.
FACT: AB 1510 and the settlement complement each other and share a common goal – increasing the choices available to survivors for holding USC accountable. Just as the settlement extends the statute of limitations for those women who choose to participate in it, AB 1510 extends the statute of limitations for those women who choose instead to litigate their claims in court. Accordingly, the settlement and AB 1510 do not conflict, but together expand the choices available to survivors.