University of California to pay $374.4M to settle abuse claims against former gynecologist

The University of California will pay $374.4 million to resolve claims by 312 women who alleged they were sexually abused when treated by a former longtime UCLA gynecologist, according to a UCLA statement shared with Becker's on May 24. 

This agreement is the latest settlement involving women who accused James Heaps, MD, of sexual misconduct when he treated them. Dr. Heaps worked at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from 1986 to 2018, at the university's student health center from 1983 to 2010 or at his medical office from 2014 to 2018.

"The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values," UCLA's statement said. "We are grateful to all those who came forward and hope this settlement is one step toward providing some level of healing for the plaintiffs involved.

"We are dedicated to providing the highest quality care that respects the dignity of every patient. We are taking all necessary steps to ensure our patients’ well-being in order to maintain the public’s confidence and trust."

The $374.4 million civil settlement comes after the University of California agreed to a separate $243.6 million civil settlement in February resolving sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Heaps by more than 200 women. 

In July 2021, a federal judge also approved a $73 million settlement that resolved a 2019 class-action lawsuit by more than 5,500 women against Dr. Heaps. The July settlement required UCLA to adopt and implement additional policies and procedures to prevent, identify and address sexual misconduct.  

Additionally, the University of California paid $2.25 million in 2019 to resolve sexual assault allegations by a patient, according to the Los Angeles Times

With the latest settlement, litigation payouts by the University of California total about $700 million, the largest ever for a public university related to sexual abuse allegations, the newspaper reported.

Darren Kavinoky and Jennifer McGrath, attorneys for the plaintiffs, told the Los Angeles Times that the university did not act swiftly enough after learning of the allegations against Dr. Heaps and thereby allowed the behavior to continue. 

Dr. Heaps retired in 2018. He was arrested in 2019, and his medical license was suspended the same year.

He still faces criminal charges related to the sexual abuse allegations and has denied any wrongdoing, according to the Los Angeles Times

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