LOS ANGELES – The University of California system has reached a proposed $73 million settlement with seven women who accused a former University of California, Los Angeles gynecologist of sexual abuse.
James Heaps, 67, is accused in the civil suit of sexual assault and sexual misconduct during his tenure at the UCLA student health center and UCLA Medical Center between 1983 and 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Although there are only seven named plaintiffs in the civil class-action lawsuit, that number could swell to include more than 6,600 of Heaps’ former patients, the Times reported.
Any of those potential plaintiffs could receive part of the settlement, even if they have not personally accused the former gynecologist of abuse, NBC News reported, noting a U.S. District Court judge must approve the final settlement.
A former patient of Heaps told KCAL that the “trauma” she has carried “for far too long is one that thousands of other women around the country also share.”
“I am relieved that we have reached a resolution that provides a way for other women to come forward in a confidential manner,” she told the TV station.
The tentative settlement also requires UCLA, which was accused of failing to protect Heaps’ patients after their complaints were lodged, to maintain stricter oversight procedures for identifying, preventing and reporting sexual abuse and harassment complaints, KCAL reported.
Specifically, UCLA has been accused of concealing Heaps’ misconduct prior to his June 2019 arrest for sexually touching two patients in 2017, the Times reported.
Per the proposed settlement, the university system must also implement a formal chaperone policy for patients; initiate a training program on boundaries; and ensure that patients are informed about reporting misconduct, the newspaper reported.
Separately, Heaps is facing criminal charges of sexually abusing five patients between 2011 and 2018. The 20 felony counts in those proceedings include sexual battery by fraud, sexual exploitation of a patient and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. He could be sentenced to more than 67 years in prison if convicted of all criminal charges, the Times reported.
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