The University of California in the United States has agreed to pay $73 million to settle a lawsuit raised by several women, who alleged they were sexually abused by a former gynecologist employed by the university.
Patients have accused Dr James Heaps, 63, of misconduct throughout his the decades he worked at the university.
More than 6,600 patients of the accused, could receive a part of the payment even if they have not accused the former doctor of misconduct once a judge approves the settlement.
Heaps worked part-time as gynecologist at the student health center from 1983 to 2010, and was later hired by UCLA Health in 2014. His patients have alleged that he made sexually inappropriate comments during their appointments and touched women sexually during exams without wearing gloves.
The agreement filed Monday also asked the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to undertake reform measures, including training on boundaries between students and lecturers, advertising of patient reporting options, compliance monitoring and probes into possible misconduct allegations.
Heaps was arrested in June 2019 and charged with sexual battery of two former patients in 2017 and 2018. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Following his arrest, and the rise of the MeToo movement, several other women came forward with sexual allegations against the doctor.
Since then, the university says Heaps saw about 5,000 patients during his career at UCLA in addition to an estimated 1,600 women, whose records are no longer available.
Patients can seek amounts of $250,000 or higher in certain cases and the settlement does not require Heaps to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
“The incidents described in the lawsuit reflect alleged conduct that is contrary to our values,” UCLA Health said Monday in a statement.
“We thank the individuals who came forward and hope that this settlement – which is still subject to court approval – is one small step forward for the patients involved.”
The settlement is separate from criminal charges against Heaps, whose medical license has been suspended.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges involving seven women and denied wrongdoing.
He is to appear in court on December 7.
By Kingsley U.