California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Wednesday that would allow victims of former campus gynecologist George Tyndall to revive sexual assault cases time-barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
The new law allows cases regarding assaults between 1988 and 2017 seeking more than $250,000 in damages are eligible to be revisited. Tyndall, who was charged with 29 felony counts in June, is currently being sued by more than 800 individuals in state and federal courts. The former USC doctor’s bail is set at $1.6 million, and he faces up to 53 years in state prison.
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Mark Stone presented a policy analysis April 9 for the bill that argued USC thought the bill could “disrupt the pending $215 million federal class-action settlement for all former patients of Tyndall.” USC also hired a lobbying firm to oppose Assembly Bill 1510.
“While the bill does not name USC or Dr. Tyndall, the bill clearly seeks to allow the USC victims, in particular, to revive claims barred by the statute of limitations in effect,” Stone wrote. “Sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California, the bill has the support of several consumer, civil rights and women’s groups.”
USC filed a settlement in February, which would provide tiered compensation for any individuals who were patients of Tyndall.
Stone said the bill can bring claims that have been voided due to the current statute of limitations, including allegations against Tyndall.
“As amended, this legislation protects the federal class action settlement for the former patients who prefer the privacy and certainty of that option, while allowing other former patients to litigate their claims publicly if they choose to do so,” USC wrote in a statement. “Providing fair, respectful relief to former patients, while making lasting, impactful changes that safeguard students, strengthen our University, and rebuild trust with our community, remain USC’s top priorities.”
John Manly, an attorney representing over 30 several victims, said Newsom’s decision to approve the legislation represents a step forward for victims.
“What USC also did in 2017 is enter into a deal to pay Dr. Tyndall $200,000, which, by the way, is way more than any of the victims will get in the class action to secretly leave campus, knowing that he had sexually assaulted hundreds of women,” Manly said. “And what the legislature did is say ‘You’re not getting away with this.’”
The law will now open up the statute of limitations for these assaults for one year, allowing more than 800 plaintiffs to file suit against Tyndall and the University.
“The legislature heard from many, many, many survivors,” Manly said. “The administration has not treated these women like family. They treat them like adversaries or enemies. USC did this to itself, by the way they treated these women.”
Gloria Allred, a prominent women’s rights attorney representing over 60 victims in the case, said she is pleased that all victims will be able to seek damages, regardless of when they were abused.
“We represent victims who saw Dr. Tyndall as early as 1991 and many others who will now be able to seek a fair and just recovery and not face dismissal of their claim simply because of statute of limitations defense,” Allred wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “Our clients are grateful to the California legislators who voted for passage of this important bill and to Governor Newsom who signed the bill today and that it be effective immediately as an emergency measure.”
In March, USC wrote that the legislation was “unnecessary” and “harmful” to plaintiffs. However, the University released a statement Wednesday claiming that new amendments made to the legislation will help protect plaintiffs.
“[It would be] in part by encouraging members of the class to opt out of the settlement in order to bring or join a separate civil action,” Stone wrote.
Tomas Mier contributed to this report.