New lawsuits announced against USC, Tyndall

Content warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault and abuse.

Fourteen additional plaintiffs filed lawsuits against former campus gynecologist George Tyndall and USC, accusing the University of remaining silent for about three decades despite knowledge of Tyndall’s alleged sexual abuse, sexual assault and molestation of hundreds of current and former students. 

D. Miller & Associates, a Texas law firm that represents 114 plaintiffs against Tyndall and USC, announced the additional lawsuits in a press conference Thursday. The lawsuits have continued calls for the University to overhaul its reporting system to be more consistent and swift, said Andy Rubenstein, head of litigation and one of the firm’s attorneys. The lawsuit also demands the University take accountability for its role in allowing Tyndall to abuse patients for about 30 years from 1989 until his resignation in 2017. Before that, the University announced an investigation in 2016, and Tyndall wasn’t allowed to see patients until his resignation. 

USC said in a statement to the Daily Trojan that it has worked to improve its culture in the past two years by strengthening  operations and oversight at USC Student Health, creating the Office of Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX as a centralized reporting space, hiring a vice president to represent that office and creating “enhanced training protocols for students, staff and faculty.”

“Throughout the litigation process involving George Tyndall, USC has been committed to resolving these lawsuits fairly,” the University wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan Friday. “Once the university is served with this lawsuit, it will review and respond to the allegations through the legal process. USC is committed to fostering a culture and climate where students, faculty and staff can learn, work and thrive in a supportive environment that is free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”

Tyndall was arrested in June 2019 and charged with 29 felony counts, including 18 counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person. In July 2020, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed five additional counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious minor and one count of sexual battery by fraud. Tyndall has pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges. 

The University agreed in June 2019 to a $215 million settlement for more than 18,000 former patients who were treated by Tyndall. Settlement payments ranged from $2,500 to $250,000 based on the severity of the abuse a former patient dealt with and their willingness to give written statements or interviews to mental health professionals and claim panels. 

Still, Rubenstein said the point of lawsuits like his firm’s are to hold USC accountable and send a message to other higher education institutions that sexual abuse cannot be tolerated and concealed. A Title IX investigation from the U.S. Department of Education that concluded in February mandated “sweeping changes” at the University, including an overhaul of Title IX processes, “a formal review of current and former employees to determine if they responded appropriately to notice of possible sex discrimination” and monitoring from the Department’s Office of Civil Rights for three years to ensure compliance. 

The University previously announced various changes it made to Title IX reporting processes, including creating the new office that combined the previous Office of Equity and Diversity and Title IX Office to streamline procedures. 

The University announced last week the implementation of the new policy on prohibited discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Earlier changes to the Title IX reporting processes included creating the new office that combined the previous Office of Equity and Diversity and Title IX Office to streamline procedures and hiring civil rights attorney Catherine Spear to lead the new office. 

Rubenstein said he and his clients don’t trust USC to make meaningful changes to its Title IX processes, structure and culture. 

“The clients I represent now would not come close to being made whole with what USC wanted to pay in the class-action settlement,” he said. “I think our lawsuit is necessary, not so much because of the compensation we’re seeking, but this lawsuit is answering questions. It’s answering questions about who knew that USC was hiding a predator for three decades. And it’s answering questions about all of the administration’s efforts to keep it hidden for three decades and to keep it hidden now.”

One of the new plaintiffs was identified as at least one of the former patients to say she was abused as a minor while seeking treatment at the University.

The victim, identified as Jane Doe 132, sought medical care after losing her virginity to a 24-year-old USC student when she was 16 and feared she may be pregnant, according to the complaint. At the time of her appointment with Tyndall, she was 17. 

Although nurses and physicians in California are mandated reporters, required to report sexual assault to the authorities, and the plaintiff fell below the age of consent in California, no one reported the alleged rape, according to the complaint. 

When the patient told Tyndall about this experience, he said that he didn’t believe her because she was “well-developed” for her age she must have had sex before and also didn’t report the incident, the complaint read. He also commented that Black girls were promiscuous and claimed “a beautiful girl like you probably goes home with a different boy each night,” according to the brief. 

Tyndall asked the victim to describe the sexual experience and offered to help her when she said she didn’t orgasm, saying he would test to determine if she could be aroused and orgasm from clitoral stimulation. He also told the patient about Kegel exercises and put his finger in her vagina to have her practice them, saying the exercises gave his wife “the tightest pussy he’s ever had,” according to the complaint. 

Many of the victims alleged, as in past lawsuits, that Tyndall performed inappropriate and unnecessary pelvic and breast exams, and in many cases touched and inserted his hand or fingers into patients’ vaginas as part of what he deemed to be medical procedures. Tyndall also asked many of the victims to undress completely while he was in the room, allowing no privacy. In Jane Doe 132’s case, a chaperone had not been present, but many former patients alleged in their lawsuits that chaperones had been present but may or may not have reported the sexual abuse.

Another one of the alleged victims, identified in the new complaint as Jane Doe 134, said that Tyndall took pictures of her breasts without her consent. Her appointment was for severe periods. After he performed an ungloved pelvic examination, he inserted a finger into her anus without a clinical reason, while bearing his weight on her so she could not move away. 

A Los Angeles Police Department storage locker raid in December 2018 found nude photos of women, some in examination rooms, that police said belonged to Tyndall. LAPD Capt. Billy Hayes told the Los Angeles Times at the time that most photos depict women not affiliated with the University. 

After his removal from USC in June 2016, the University conducted an independent investigation of the photos found in his office, which at the time were said to be clinical. Several plaintiffs have stated in lawsuits that Tyndall took nude photos of them during examinations that investigations have found were not linked to medical procedures or reasons and constituted sexual harassment.  

LAPD continues to investigate the allegations against Tyndall.