Judge OKs UCLA's $73M settlement in sex abuse suit involving longtime physician

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A federal judge gave final approval to a $73 million settlement, resolving a class-action lawsuit brought by more than 5,500 women who allege they were sexually abused when treated by a former longtime University of California Los Angeles gynecologist and oncologist, according to Spectrum News 1.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner approved the final settlement July 12. The settlement also requires UCLA to ensure stronger oversight to identify, prevent and ensure reporting of sexual misconduct. 

The lawsuit, initially filed in 2019, accused James Heaps, MD, of sexually abusing patients during examinations, making sexually suggestive comments and recommending unnecessary procedures and overly frequent examinations, among other allegations. It also accused UCLA of failing to protect patients, allegedly allowing Dr. Heaps to continue seeing patients after learning about the abuse. 

The $73 million settlement will compensate more than 5,500 class members who received treatment from Dr. Heaps at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from 1986-2018, the university's student health center from 1983-2010 or his medical office from 2014-18. Each class member will receive a $2,500 payment, and those who wish to come forward can seek up to $250,000. 

Dr. Heaps, who was fired by UCLA in 2018, faces 20 counts of sexual abuse in the criminal case filed against him. He faces more than 67 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

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