Even in these days of mega legal settlements, $1.1 billion is an extraordinary amount of money. That is the total amount the University of Southern California is paying to resolve lawsuits from roughly 700 women alleging gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall sexually abused them at the USC student health center.
Magnitude of the Settlement
On March 25, USC agreed to an $852 million settlement for these lawsuits. Three years earlier, in a federal class-action lawsuit, USC had agreed to pay over $200 million to Tyndall’s patients. A third lawsuit involved a settlement, which was not made public, with several dozen claimants. In 2020, USC reported its entire endowment at $5.9 billion, and the Tyndall claims equal one-seventh of that amount.
USC announced the settlement funds will come from insurance proceeds along with the university’s financial reserves. Capital projects are being deferred to pay the victims, some non-essential assets are scheduled for sale, and general belt-tightening will take place.
The settlement is also twice the size of the $500 million Michigan State University paid to the victims of Dr. Larry Nassar, an MSU physician who sexually abused hundreds of young women as part of so-called medical treatment. It is the largest such settlement of its kind.
USC Knew of Culpability
The plaintiffs’ attorney in the most recent settlement said USC settled because they knew there was culpability as far back as the 1990s. Awards to plaintiffs will range from a minimum of $250,000 to several million dollars.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys were armed with evidence that officials knew of Tyndall’s conduct for three decades and did not remove him.
Sole Full-time Gynecologist
From 1989 to 2016, Tyndall was the sole ful-ltime gynecologist at the USC student health center. That means the number of potential victims may have reached 17,000. That made the sheer scope of the settlement inevitable.
It was not long after he began working at the student health center that USC learned Tyndall was taking photos of patients’ genitals. Young women complained he asked prurient questions about their sex lives and made “suggestive” comments regarding their bodies. Nurses are supposed to monitor gynecologists while they are conducting pelvic exams. Tyndall used a curtain so they could not have a clear view of what he was doing.
One victim, now 46, said Tyndall conducted an unnecessary pelvic exam on her in 1995 when she sought treatment for food poisoning. None of the women in the final settlement signed confidentiality agreements, so the conversation on what Tyndall did and how USC ignored the issue should continue.
Staff knew for years that Tyndall inappropriately touched women during vaginal exams. This behavior was not reported until 2016, when a nurse reported Tyndall to the USC rape crisis center. It was only then that USC suspended Tyndall and began an investigation.
In 2017, Tyndall was allowed to resign and accepted a payout. USC failed to report Tyndall to the Medical Board of California until the Los Angeles Times began contacting USC staff about Tyndall the following year.
The 74-year-old, stripped of his medical license, is now awaiting trial on dozens of sexual assault charges. He had pleaded not guilty.
If you have been subject to sexual harassment in an academic setting, one of our knowledgeable attornies at Whistleblower Law Group can evaluate your case free of charge. Call today for a free consultation at 877.858.8018 or at [hidden email].