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University of California system agrees to $73 million settlement in claims against UCLA gynecologist

Nov. 17, 2020
Many patients have accused Dr. James Heaps of sexual assault and sexual misconduct between 1983 and 2018.

The University of California system has reached a proposed $73 million settlement with seven women who accused a former gynecologist of sexual abuse.

CBS News reports that more than 6,600 patients of Dr. James Heaps could receive part of the settlement—even if they have not accused the former University of California, Los Angeles, gynecologist of abuse.

A federal judge must approve the deal between the plaintiffs, representing thousands of Heaps' patients, and the University of California regents and the doctor.

The proposed agreement, which includes several mandated reforms to be carried out at UCLA, was filed in federal court.

Patients have accused Heaps of sexual assault and sexual misconduct between 1983 and 2018, when he worked at the UCLA student health center and UCLA Medical Center. Accusations include making sexually inappropriate comments to patients and touching women sexually during exams without wearing gloves.

The settlement is separate from criminal charges against Heaps, 63, whose medical license has been suspended. He has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.

UCLA has said its investigation into the gynecologist began in December 2017, though officials did not alert the campus community of the allegations until Heaps was in court last year. He retired in 2018 when UCLA declined to renew his contract.

More than 200 women contacted UCLA after Heaps was arrested in June 2019 to report their experiences with the doctor, according to the settlement. UCLA has identified about 5,000 patients who were previously under Heaps' care and estimate that an additional 1,600 women were treated by him but that their records no longer exist at the university. They are all covered under the settlement.

The patients' payouts begin at a guaranteed minimum of $2,500, regardless of whether the women accused Heaps of harassment or assault.

Patients can seek amounts of $250,000 or higher in certain cases. A panel of experts will decide how much each patient is paid based on their experience.

The $73 million does not include attorneys' fees or litigation expenses. UCLA will pay those separately.

More than 100 of Heaps' former patients have filed individual lawsuits.

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