A federal judge announced he intends to give final approval for the $215 million class action settlement for former patients of former campus gynecologist George Tyndall Monday at a court hearing. The settlement includes payouts ranging from $2,500 to $250,000.
“In this case, the women brought the suit as a class action, fought for themselves, but also for everybody else who wasn’t in a place where they felt like they could bring a lawsuit,” said Annika Martin, one of the lead attorneys representing the women who have come forward against Tyndall through the class action. “I think that’s a really key piece of this — it really was women standing up for other women.”
Final approval, if not delayed by appeals, will allow the University to begin distributing money to the estimated 18,000 patients Tyndall saw over his nearly 30 years of employment at USC, regardless of whether they filed claims against him.
The settlement was first proposed in October 2018 but was delayed in April after a federal judge ruled it needed to be amended to include more information about the distribution of payouts.
The final version of the settlement increased the size of the panel deciding payout amounts from one person to three. The panel will comprise a retired federal judge, a gynecologist and a forensic psychologist, all of whom will be selected jointly by USC and class counsel for the survivors.
USC said it was pleased with the tentative approval of the class action settlement.
“This settlement provides respectful and confidential relief to Tyndall patients at the student health center and formalizes a broad array of campus reforms,” the University wrote in a statement.
The class action is the first sexual assault claims settlement to effect institutional reform as part of the agreement, Martin said. As a result of the settlement, two independent monitors have been appointed to work with the University to ensure that changes to the University’s gender-based violence policies are properly implemented.
Nancy Cantalupo, an external consultant with experience in sexual violence prevention and response, will serve as one of the monitors. Cantalupo, who has been at the University since the fall, helped coordinate the American Association of Universities Campus Climate Survey at USC in Fall 2019 and is on the task force assembling a report on the survey results. She has met with students and faculty and will make recommendations for University protocol changes regarding gender-based harm.
The other monitor, who will arrive at USC this spring but has not yet been announced, will act as an independent women’s health advocate and will work closely with USC Student Health, receiving and confirming investigation into complaints of sexual and racial misconduct at the student health center.
“One of the really primary goals of the settlement is to make sure that can never happen again and that whatever policies and procedures allowed that to happen, that those are changed,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can have some accountability for what’s happened in the past and also make some changes in the future.”
More than 700 current and former USC students have accused Tyndall of sexual assault in what the Los Angeles Police Department has called the largest single-suspect sex crimes investigation in the department’s history.
However, some attorneys disapproved of the settlement. John Manly, who represents 234 women in lawsuits against USC alleging abuse by Tyndall, said he believes the settlement is unfair to the former patients, citing the removal of a clause that would allow survivors to appeal payout decisions. He said he considered the University’s crisis response strategy too focused on maintaining the University’s image.
“USC has adopted the Catholic bishops’ model, and basically, that’s the model where we spend a lot of money on public relations and very little time and attention to reform,” Manly said. “I can tell you, until that culture changes there, this will happen again — it will. And they’ll continue to damage the University’s reputation.”
The panel of experts will determine the size of each payout using a tiered system, awarding higher compensation to those who submit written records and interviews about the abuse. Under the terms of the settlement, Tyndall will not be responsible for paying any portion of the settlement nor will he be required to admit wrongdoing. The University will pay the $215 million in addition to up to $25 million in legal fees for the former patients.
Tyndall’s attorneys did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.
Tyndall was arrested in June 2019 and charged with 18 felony counts of sexual assault and 11 of sexual battery taking place between 2009 and 2016, following a Los Angeles Times investigation in May 2018 that uncovered his decades of sexual misconduct and quiet termination. Tyndall has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the L.A. District Attorney’s Office is conducting the criminal proceedings separately.
More than 660 women have filed separate lawsuits against USC, citing the University’s failure to protect them from sexual abuse and its negligence in not immediately reporting Tyndall’s actions to the medical board. The class action settlement is the first in a wave of expected settlements in connection with the Tyndall case.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the panel determining former patients’ payouts will be approved by Tyndall, the survivors and class action attorneys. The panel will be selected by USC and class counsel for the survivors. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.