UCLA officials have failed to warn the public about complaints of inappropriate sexual conduct against a gynecologist, according to a Los Angeles Times news report. According to the article, as far back in June 2017, a married mother of four alleged that UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Mason Heaps improperly touched her genitals, fondled her breast and buttock and made sexual remarks during the exam. She reported the conduct to UCLA in December of 2017. UCLA’s actions have now come under scrutiny after criminal charges were announced against Heap on June 10.
Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
New questions are being raised about how UCLA handled the case. The university allowed Heaps to continue his practice. In February 2018, Heaps saw another patient who also alleged sexual misconduct. Contacted by that patient’s attorney this year, UCLA agreed to a settlement. Over the last one week, at least 22 other women have stepped forward alleging that Heaps sexually assaulted them while practicing at UCLA. The university also discovered two complaints about Heaps while it was investigating the 2017 allegation, the Times reports.
In addition, 75 people have contacted UCLA about Heaps since the university announced that Los Angeles prosecutors have charged the doctor with sexual battery in two university cases. Heaps has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges. Heaps and the UC regents also face two civil lawsuits filed this week by women treated in 2017.
One lawsuit alleges sexual battery, emotional distress, gender discrimination and negligent supervision. Another lawsuit involved a college student who was 18 at the time of her July 2017 appointment with Heaps. She alleges he sexually touched her genitals, made vulgar comments about her body and asked embarrassing and medically unnecessary questions about her sex life. The Times also found that UCLA never completed the investigation it started in 2017 and never informed patients about any findings.
The University’s Responsibility
These revelations come at the heels of a $215-million settlement in a class-action lawsuit against USC. Under the terms of the settlement, the approximately 17,000 women treated during the physician’s three-decade career would each be eligible to receive between $2,500 and $250,000.
Whether these types of incidents occur at USC, UCLA or any other hospital or healthcare system, they have a responsibility to thoroughly investigate any complaints of sexual allegations made against their physicians, and take timely disciplinary action. It is also important that these organizations warn the public about such behavior so patients can make informed choices. Health systems including university healthcare centers have a responsibility to put patients first.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual misconduct in a medical setting, you may not be alone. You may have a class-action lawsuit against the entity that allowed such misconduct to take place and continue. An experienced Los Angeles class action lawyer will be able to provide you with more information about pursuing your legal rights.