Historic Settlement in USC Sexual Abuse Cases

We are proud and honored to be part of an historic settlement of hundreds of lawsuits brought against the University of Southern California by women who were subjected to sexual abuse and harassment by campus gynecologist George Tyndall over the course of over 25 years.

After almost three years of litigation and months of negotiations, a settlement was reached among 702 women (of whom our firm represented 12) and USC for a total of $842.4 million. This is an average of $1.2 million per plaintiff. The specific amount of each plaintiff’s recovery will be determined through an allocation process conducted by a retired judge.

In response to this litigation, USC has announced a number of specific changes to its policies and procedures to try to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

This result would not have been achieved if not for the extraordinary efforts of a number of people. After USC essentially ignored Dr. Tyndall’s mistreatment of students for decades and then allowed him to leave quietly with a severance package in 2016 without alerting his patients or the medical board to his history of abuse, a group of L.A. Times reporters wrote a series of articles that broke the story of Dr. Tyndall’s misconduct. This allowed victims to recognize, for the first time, that they were not alone, and it validated their feeling that Dr. Tyndall had badly mistreated them.

Then the California legislature stepped up and added a provision to Code of Civil Procedure section 340.16 that gave Dr. Tyndall’s victims a one-year window in 2020 in which they could file suit, even if the statute of limitations had already expired for their claims under prior law. This eliminated what was certain to be USC’s primary defense to most of these claims.

Of course, most of the credit should go to the brave women who stepped forward and allowed their voices to be heard. Many of them waited decades to get justice. All 702 resisted the temptation to join in a class action settlement that USC quickly agreed to just a few months after the L.A. Times story broke (when no discovery had been conducted), in an obvious attempt to minimize its financial exposure for Dr. Tyndall’s abuse. The maximum recovery that a plaintiff could receive as part of that class action settlement was $250,000.

Over 50 people (most of them current and former USC employees) were deposed as part of this litigation. This discovery not only helped lead to the settlement, but also allowed all of the pertinent facts concerning this unfortunate saga in USC’s history to be uncovered and analyzed.

USC is obviously an impressive academic institution and plays a very important role in Southern California. Indeed, many of the plaintiff’s lawyers involved in this case have ties to USC. No one wants to see the university permanently hindered by this scandal. On the other hand, USC clearly dropped the ball when it came to its duty to protect its students, and one can only hope that this episode will lead to long-term, meaningful change. Above all, the right of women to be free from sexual abuse and harassment should never be treated as anything other than the highest priority.