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USC Agrees To $852 Million Settlement In Gynecologist Abuse Case

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The University of Southern California has agreed to pay more than $850 million to former patients of a campus gynecologist who they say sexually abused them. This is the biggest sex abuse payout in history for an institution of higher education. And for the next few minutes, we are going to be discussing details of sexual abuse. Some listeners may find those details disturbing. The Wall Street Journal's Sara Randazzo has been covering this story and joins us now from Los Angeles. Thanks for being here, Sara.

SARA RANDAZZO: Good morning.

MARTIN: First off, can you just explain the claims laid out in these lawsuits?

RANDAZZO: Yes. So George Tyndall was the primary campus gynecologist at USC for nearly 30 years starting in the 1980s. And he left the university in 2017 but only emerged the next year, 2018, in a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times that he had had complaints against him building really from the beginning. And this included both physical comments he would make that were racially and sexually insensitive but also, unfortunately, physical allegations, including inappropriate physical exams, that he would digitally penetrate people without gloves on, that he would take photos inappropriately of women, that he would ask them to take their clothes off in front of him and other things like that. And so lawsuits began building soon after the Los Angeles Times articles, and those actually led in 2018 to a $215 million settlement in a federal class action. But a lot of the women looked at the amount of payouts they could get under that and said this isn't enough. And so hundreds of them continued to sue in state court. And that's what led to this week's settlement.

MARTIN: Wow. So USC, again, has agreed to $852 million. What are the details of that settlement?

RANDAZZO: Yeah. So this amount is for 710 additional women who had some of the most serious allegations against the doctor. And so they'll get to share that pot of money and get an average of $1.2 million each. And so this now brings the total tab for USC up to $1.1 billion for this - for all of these allegations, which is the largest by far for a university in this kind of setting.

MARTIN: This is even more significant than the settlement in the Larry Nassar trial in Michigan, right?

RANDAZZO: That's right. That one was $500 million from Michigan State University, which looked like a large amount at the time, back in 2018. But this now eclipses that.

MARTIN: So what are the consequences? What other potential consequences are there for this doctor, George Tyndall?

RANDAZZO: Yeah. So he's had his medical license taken away, and he also now faces criminal charges. And so in 2019, the Los Angeles DA charged him with 29 felonies related to the assault of 16 former patients. And then last year, they brought charges related to five new patients, and he pleaded not guilty, and he has continued to deny the charges. And one critical point also is that the settlement - really it's about his actions, but it's also, the women say, about the school's inaction. And I think the reason the school paid so much money is because of all of the details that came out about all the complaints over the years that they looked the other way on and ignored.

MARTIN: Well, we appreciate you bringing us this reporting. Sara Randazzo with The Wall Street Journal, thank you so much.

RANDAZZO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.