The University of California system would pay $73 million under a proposed settlement reached in a class action lawsuit filed by seven women who accused their former gynecologist at UCLA of sexual abuse, the Los Angeles Times reports. The gynecologist, 67-year-old James Heaps, who is criminally charged with sexually abusing seven patients – not the same seven who are involved in the class action – is accused in the civil litigation of sexual assault and sexual misconduct between 1983 and 2019 when he was at the UCLA student health center as well as the UCLA Medical Center.
Abuse and Criminal Charges
In addition to the named plaintiffs, the class action lawsuit could eventually include more than 6,600 patients whom Heaps saw during his time there. A federal judge must approve the final settlement. The agreement also requires UCLA to take measures to prevent such abuse from occurring in the future. UCLA has also been accused of deliberately concealing Heaps’ misconduct prior to his arrest in June 2019 in connection with inappropriately touching two patients in 2017.
Since the doctor’s arrest, more than 200 women have come forward to report that Heaps not only touched them sexually during exams, but also subjected them to sexually inappropriate comments. His medical license was suspended last year after he pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges. Heaps now faces 20 felony counts and is charged with sex crimes spanning a period of eight years.
One patient who spoke to the Times about this settlement expressed relief over the settlement saying that she has carried the trauma like thousands of other women have. She said she hopes the resolution provides a way for other women to come forward in a confidential manner. Other clients have chosen not to be a part of this settlement because they would like their day in court.
Class Action Versus Personal Injury Lawsuits
Both class actions lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits have a place in the civil justice system. Those who have been harmed by negligence or wrongdoing – be it as a result of sexual abuse or defective products – have the ability to choose which route they wish to go in order to hold the negligent parties or wrongdoers accountable.
If a person who has been harmed has not suffered serious personal injuries or has not incurred monetary damages, a class action lawsuit may be a viable option considering the power it has to hold large corporations and institutions accountable. However, if you have suffered a serious personal injury that required you to be hospitalized, undergo surgery and lose income, it might be in your best interest to file a personal injury lawsuit so you are fairly compensated for your losses. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will be able to advise you in such cases regarding your legal rights and options.