USC will pay more than $1.1 billion to women who say they were sexually abused by campus gynecologist George Tyndall in what is believed to be one of the largest settlement payouts in higher education history.
A group of about 700 women filed a lawsuit against the university alleging they had been abused by 74-year-old Tyndall, who lost his medical license and was arrested after pleading guilty to charges of sexual assault. According to the Los Angeles Times, the group of women settled their claims for $852 million. In 2018, USC settled a separate class-action lawsuit with a group of about 18,000 women who were patients of Tyndall’s. The settlement was for a total of $215 million, with individual payouts ranging from $2,500 to $250,000. Another group of about 50 other cases was settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who’s representing 72 of the more than 700 women suing USC, called Thursday's agreement “the largest sexual abuse settlement against a university in US history.”
In 2018, the Los Angeles Times first broke the story about Tyndall’s sexual abuse, which spanned nearly two decades despite years of complaints from his students and colleagues dating back to the 1990s. Students also spoke to BuzzFeed News in 2018 about their experiences.
A woman named Panthea was a 26-year-old graduate student when she made an appointment to see Tyndall at the student health center in 2013 for an annual exam. Panthea told BuzzFeed News the former gynecologist fingered her and told her how lucky she was to have “tight pelvic floor muscles.”
“He said, 'That's a good thing and I should try and keep it tight for my partner,’” Panthea said. “It felt wrong. It was wrong, but in the moment you don't know. He just took the reins and did his own thing.”
Tyndall was arrested in June 2019 on suspicion of committing more than two dozen felonies and is still awaiting trial. If convicted, Tyndall could face up to 53 years in prison.
Allred held a virtual press conference on Thursday with fellow attorney John Carpenter and four women who said Tyndall abused them when they attended USC. Allred said those included in the settlement will each receive an average of $96,000, emphasizing how important it was to “hold USC accountable for not protecting” women abused by Tyndall “and not taking action against Dr. Tyndall decades ago.”
“USC knew of inappropriate conduct by [Tyndall] but failed to take appropriate measures to protect innocent students who were under his care,” Allred said.
One woman at the news conference who went by the name Jane Doe 48 said she was one of Tyndall’s “original victims” from when she was a 17-year-old college student in 1989. She said the former doctor immediately started grooming her, preying on her nervousness and lack of experience, and told her to disclose everything she was doing sexually. She also said appointments with Tyndall included “painful and long probing,” which he told her was normal and typical.
“I don’t recall if he photographed me. I always kept my eyes shut during these exams, trying to breathe and relax, so it wouldn’t hurt so much,” Jane Doe 48 said. “He did show me printed photos of other women’s vaginas to explain what STDs were so I would be more careful about my sexual activities. He implied that all college women are promiscuous, which is why he had to take such good care of us.”
Daniella Mohazab, another patient of Tyndall’s, said she hopes Thursday's outcome is a signal to other universities that they need to better protect their students.
“I want universities and institutions to take a careful look at this. I hope it shocks you. I hope it scares you. I hope it drives you to make sure change happens and policies are followed,” Mohazab said. “This happened because of a doctor who sexually abused us and a university who overlooked it for decades.”