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US university to pay $244m over gynaecologist assault claims

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Gynaecologist James Heaps was affiliated with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for 35 years, and is alleged to have abused hundreds of women there./AFP
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Feb 09, 2022 - 06:10 AM

LOS ANGELES — The University of California will pay almost a quarter of a billion dollars to 200 women who allege they were assaulted by a school gynaecologist, officials said Tuesday.

James Heaps was affiliated with the university’s Los Angeles site (UCLA) for 35 years, and saw thousands of patients.

Hundreds of lawsuits claim UCLA deliberately hid Heaps’ sexual abuse of patients, and allowed him to continue to have unfettered access to alleged victims over many years.

In a settlement filed in a Los Angeles court, the university agreed to pay $243.6 million to 203 people who alleged they were assaulted by Heaps.

Heaps faces 21 criminal counts of sexual abuse against seven women.

“The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to the University’s values,” a statement said Tuesday.

“Our first and highest obligation will always be to the communities we serve, and we hope this settlement is one step toward providing healing and closure for the plaintiffs involved.

“We admire the courage of the plaintiffs in coming forward.”

The settlement comes after the University of Michigan agreed to pay $490 million to hundreds of students and athletes who were sexually abused by long-time university doctor Richard Anderson.

Nearby Michigan State University reached a half-billion dollar settlement with 300 people who were abused by Larry Nassar, a doctor who also treated members of the US women’s Olympics gymnastics team.

The University of Southern California announced in March last year that it had entered into three settlements totalling $1.1 billion with hundreds of female students sexually abused by a school gynaecologist.

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