Fifty-one more patients file suits against Tyndall and USC, motivated to change ‘a culture of secrecy and silence’
Fifty-one women filed lawsuits on Monday against USC, alleging the University mishandled and ignored accusations that former health center gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall sexually abused his patients.
This is the largest group of women to collectively sue USC and Tyndall, more than doubling the number of cases already filed. Andy Rubenstein, the head of litigation at Houston-based law firm D. Miller & Associates, PLLC, will represent the 51 women in seven separate lawsuits. Out of the 51, six have come forward with their names, with the remaining 45 women as Jane Does.
“The USC cover-up of Dr. Tyndall’s abuses is just another example of how colleges and universities protect predators, not students,” Rubenstein said in a press release. “A blind eye was turned toward these women’s pleas for help … USC’s inexcusable inaction gave Dr. Tyndall the opportunity to abuse countless more patients over many years.”
On Monday, Rubenstein and several of his clients held a press conference at The London West Hollywood hotel. Rubenstein said Tyndall performed unnecessary pelvic exams and “invented diagnoses” to ensure follow-up appointments with his patients.
“After The Los Angeles Times report came out in mid-May … people were reaching out to us, and initially we weren’t sure how many clients we would end up representing,” Rubenstein said. “Even from the first client, we were talking amongst ourselves at the firm and with the client and realized that this was going to be a different kind of case because we were really fighting for change at the University, which is not generally what most lawsuits can accomplish.”
One of Rubenstein’s clients, Dana Loewy, said that when news regarding Tyndall’s sexual misconduct allegations broke out, Loewy was upset that she was “just one of potentially hundreds — if not thousands — of other women, and that made [her] angry that [her] own alma mater would allow such a thing to go on for 27 years.”
Loewy attended USC from 1988 to 1995 and graduated with a doctorate in English. While she calls herself a “proud Woman of Troy,” her appointment with Tyndall — a routine, annual pelvic exam — felt “really creepy and strangely intimate” from the beginning and casted a shadow on her college experience.
“Something was off,” Loewy said. “But at USC, he was the only full-time doctor at the time. It didn’t occur to me that I was not in good hands, so you kind of even questioned your own judgment.”
As Loewy prepared for the examination, she claimed Tyndall made a remark about a small tattoo on her inner thigh.
“It was not so much what he said, but how he said it, the way he spoke and his very casual manner that made the entire office visit awful,” she said.
For Loewy, the pelvic exam was highly inappropriate.
“He thrust his fingers inside me and I remember that he caused me excruciating pain, and I squirmed and protested and he told me not to make such a fuss,” she said. “And then, it was like a light switch was turned on and he changed his demeanor and he said that I must be in so much pain because I was still a virgin.”
After her appointment with Tyndall, Loewy avoided male gynecologists. Loewy said that she and a friend of hers had a moniker for the doctor: “The Butcher.”
“We called him ‘The Butcher’ because of his menacing demeanor,” Loewy said. “But also, I seem to remember that he had very thick hands — less like a surgeon and more like a butcher.”
Another one of Rubenstein’s clients, Amanda Davis, also said that her appointment with Tyndall has been ingrained in her brain for the past 17 years. A single mother who attended USC from 1999 to 2002, Davis claimed Tyndall took nude photos of her during their appointment for research purposes.
“He started talking about how women’s bodies change when they’re pregnant and then give birth, and how they can get their bodies back to how they were before,” Davis said. “He said he was doing research on that topic and would I mind if he take a picture. At that time, I [was] from a very small country town. I was raised to trust especially authority figures like doctors.”
When The Los Angeles Times published its investigation on Tyndall, Davis, like Loewy, found information about D. Miller & Associates and has been involved as a plaintiff ever since.
“In order to help other women, I needed to deal with [my] feelings and emotions, and that needed to be through coming forward,” Davis said. “In this whole experience already I have definitely had some healing just hearing the other stories. There have been so many similarities … Definitely sad and angry that people went through the same thing that I did, but it also gives me validation that I wasn’t the only one. It’s definitely been like a sisterhood, very empowering.”
Now that lawsuits have been filed, Davis said that “the ball is really in USC’s court.”
“We’d like them to make a decision to not just stuff this under the rug but to be an example and create a USC standard to not just implement this on campus but with other colleges and institutions as well,” Davis said. “Because it’s not just USC. There is stuff going on, a culture of cover-up.”
The University’s mishandling of this situation prompted former President C. L. Max Nikias’ resignation in late May, a few weeks after the Tyndall investigation was brought to light.
This case comes during the time of the #MeToo movement, which has highlighted the issue of consent in sexual harassment encounters perpetrated by those in authority. A more recent case includes the Ohio State University wrestling team’s allegations that its former assistant coach Jim Jordan — a current Congressman — ignored alleged sexual misconduct by a former physician on the team’s players. Jordan has denied knowledge of any abuse.
Loewy said that in the next few weeks or months, she would like to be involved in a task force that addresses “what we believe to be a systemic problem at USC.”
“The old boys’ network, which worked so much for many alumni, has engendered a culture of secrecy and silence,” Loewy said.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Rick Caruso, elected chairman of the Board of Trustees, said he wants the litigation to be settled “as quickly as possible” without trials and depositions that would require former patients to delve into explicit detail regarding their experiences with Tyndall.
“We are going to be fair, we are going to be dignified and we are going to have a process that does not put them through hardship in coming to a resolution,” Caruso said to The Los Angeles Times.
As of Monday, more than 225 women — both current students and alumnae — are suing Tyndall and the University.