$73 Million Settlement in University of California Gynecologist Sex Abuse Case

$73 Million Settlement in University of California Gynecologist Sex Abuse Case

For three decades, gynecologist Dr. James Heaps provided services at UCLA facilities, including the UCLA Student Health Center and UCLA Health. From 1988 to 2018, Heaps held medical staff privileges at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. 

Now, after seven women accused Heaps of sexual abuse, the University of California system has reached a proposed settlement of $73 million. That does not include litigation and attorney fees, as UCLA will pay those separately. 

The class-action lawsuit may grow to include 6,600 of his former patients. The settlement covers all of Heap’s UCLA patients. It does not require Heaps to admit wrongdoing. 

The accusations against Heaps include making sexually inappropriate comments and touching women sexually during examinations while not wearing gloves. 

Criminal Charges 

Heaps is also charged criminally with sexually abusing seven patients during his tenure. These are not necessarily the same seven women filing the class-action lawsuit. 

Heaps was arrested in May 2019 for sexually touching two women. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged him with two felony counts of sexual battery by fraud, along with one felony count of sexual exploitation.  

UCLA received an initial complaint against Heaps in 2017. UCLA put him on leave the following year, but did not state the reason he left the university until his arrest. UCLA also investigated Heaps for improper billing practices. 

Because of the criminal charges, Heaps has lost his medical license. He was formerly one of the highest-paid University of California employees in his job category. In 2018, he earned more than $1 million. Heaps was long considered one of the best gynecologists and obstetricians in Los Angeles. 

Hundreds of Victims Contact UCLA

After Heaps was charged in 2019, more than 500 women contacted the university to report their interactions with the doctor.  Not all of these contacts were negative – 272 patients called to support Heaps. 

Anonymous Yelp Review

As UCLA investigators began looking into Heap’s conduct, they discovered an anonymous Yelp review from 2015 stating Heaps had touched her breasts during an examination. The poster stated she was a student at UCLA when the incident occurred. 

Other Yelp reviews praised Heaps, including those he treated for uterine and other gynecological cancers. 

A Victim Speaks Out

Ellen Cater, 47, filed a lawsuit against Heaps in which she alleges the doctor told her she had a genital skin disorder that could lead to cancer so that he could sexually abuse her. Her lawsuit states that Heaps “lured her into his practice with scare tactics so he could sexually abuse, molest, and harass her under the guise of medical treatment.”

After visiting Cater every three months for a decade for painful “treatments,” she discovered that she was not at risk for cancer from her skin problem after visiting another doctor. 

Minimum $2,500 Payout 

Each of Heap’s patients will receive at least $2,500, as per the settlement. That holds true even if they did not experience sexual abuse during examinations. One of the attorneys representing the victims says the women “were put in harm’s way” and thus deserve compensation. 

To date, more than 100 women have filed individual lawsuits against Heaps. Patients may seek as much as $250,000 in compensation, depending on what they allege occurred. An expert panel will determine the amount of money each patient receives based on what Heaps did to them.  

If you been sexually harassed with the false claims of medical necessity by a medical professional, visit our sexual harassment FAQ page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 877.858.8018.

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Related topics: Healthcare (4) | sexual abuse (27)


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