LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fourteen more women accusing a former University of Southern California gynecologist of sexual misconduct sued the physician and the university on Tuesday, as their lawyer decried a proposed class-action settlement with the school as “grossly inadequate.”
Women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred said the tentative $215 million deal reached last week to settle claims brought in federal court against Dr. George Tyndall and USC by his former patients would let the university off too easy, without the school fully accounting for its role in the scandal.
Hundreds of women have accused Tyndall of subjecting them to molestation, lewd comments and other sexually inappropriate behavior during medical exams while they were his patients at the university’s student health clinic.
Some of the allegations date back nearly 30 years. The university has acknowledged failing to properly act on at least eight complaints that were made against Tyndall between 2000 and 2014 but were never brought to light until uncovered during an inquiry that the university opened in 2016.
An attorney for Tyndall, whose medical license was suspended in August, has said that her client denies all the allegations but agreed to the settlement to avoid the expense of continued litigation.
Many accusers have recounted sensing something unprofessional or “creepy” about Tyndall but trusting him nevertheless, only to fully comprehend the sexual abuse retrospectively.
Tyndall resigned from the university last year after an internal investigation found that his pelvic examination practices were beyond accepted medical standards and that he had harassed patients.
Widespread faculty and student outrage over the university’s handling of the matter led to then-USC President C.L. Max Nikias to resign. The Los Angeles Police Department has opened a criminal investigation.
In suing the university, Tyndall’s former patients had accused USC of complicity and negligence in its duty to protect students.
Allred said her latest filing brings to 50 the number of clients she is representing in three lawsuits against Tyndall and USC. She vowed to press ahead in state court with those cases to “determine what USC knew and when they knew it.”
She called last week’s tentative settlement of a class-action federal case on behalf of hundreds of Tyndall’s patients - making each eligible for $2,500 to $250,000 - “grossly inadequate compensation.”
“USC, not just their insurance carriers, should bear the financial consequences for their alleged failure to act to properly remove or discipline Dr. Tyndall when complaints were initially made,” Allred said.
USC issued a statement defending the settlement as a deal reached “collaboratively with lawyers representing the interests of the entire proposed class,” which the university said is expected to include 14,000 to 17,000 women. It said the deal would “help heal the university community.”
Allred was flanked by two of her latest clients in the case, along with the first named plaintiff in the lawsuits, Daniella Mohazab, who called the proposed settlement “a mockery.”
Last Thursday, 93 lawsuits were filed on behalf of current and former USC students against Tyndall and the university.
Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Toni Reinhold