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    $73 Million Settlement Is Reached in Sex Abuse Suit Involving U.C.L.A. Gynecologist

    The University of California system has agreed to pay $73 million to more than 5,500 women who were patients of a former U.C.L.A. gynecologist who has been charged with 20 felony counts of sexual assault.

    The settlement terms were made public on Monday in a class-action lawsuit against the university system and the physician, Dr. James Heaps. The suit was initiated by seven women who say Dr. Heaps sexually abused them during medical examinations.

    In the settlement, the university system and Dr. Heaps do not admit wrongdoing, which is not uncommon. The settlement in the lawsuit, which was approved by the university system’s Board of Regents, still needs a judge’s approval.

    The civil suit, which was filed in October 2019, is separate from the criminal case against Dr. Heaps, who was employed at the student health center at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1983 to 2010. Dr. Heaps, 64, worked at U.C.L.A. Health from 2014 to 2018. He was initially charged in June 2019 and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

    Elizabeth A. Kramer, a lawyer for the women who filed the lawsuit, said in an email on Monday night that the sexual abuse was pervasive.

    “The settlement, if approved, will provide real and immediate compensation to thousands of women — no less than $2,500 and up to $250,000, or more in extraordinary circumstances,” Ms. Kramer wrote. “In a case involving widespread sexual misconduct, a class settlement compensates survivors who otherwise would not have come forward to seek relief from the courts, through a respectful and confidential process.”

    Under the terms of the settlement, the University of California system will pay the entire amount.

    “The incidents described in the lawsuit reflect alleged conduct that is contrary to our values,” U.C.L.A. Health said in a statement on Monday. “We thank the individuals who came forward and hope that this settlement — which is still subject to court approval — is one small step forward for the patients involved.”

    A lawyer for Dr. Heaps did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night.

    U.C.L.A. Health said that an independent review of how the university responds to allegations of sexual misconduct by medical professionals — commissioned by the Board of Regents — was completed this year.

    “U.C.L.A. is committed to policies and procedures to protect patients,” the university system said.

    One of the women who filed the lawsuit said that Dr. Heaps made sexual comments about her during an exam while he inserted his fingers into her vagina. The woman said that Dr. Heaps inappropriately touched her genitalia and thighs, and asked her if she was dating anyone and how often she had sex, according to the lawsuit.

    Another former patient said that Dr. Heaps had “fondled, cupped, and jiggled her breasts in a sexual manner, as if for his own sexual gratification or in an attempt to sexually stimulate her.”

    The $73 million settlement shared some parallels with a $215 million settlement that the University of Southern California reached with former patients of Dr. George Tyndall, the campus gynecologist accused of sexual misconduct involving hundreds of patients during his decades-long tenure. That settlement was approved by a judge in February.


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