Legal damages from accusations of sexual misconduct by an ex-UCLA gynecologist climbed higher Tuesday, with attorneys for 312 former patients announcing a $374 million settlement of abuse lawsuits against the University of California.
James Heaps, a former campus gynecologist, was the third to be settled. Heaps had a settlement worth $243.6 Million in lawsuits that involved about 200 patients. A $73 million settlement of federal lawsuits last year involved approximately 5,500 plaintiffs.
Heaps served as a gynecologist/oncologist, affiliated with UCLA, for nearly 35 years. At various times, he saw patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and at his office at 100 Medical Plaza.
According to attorneys, Heaps was once the highest-paid doctor in the UC system. He had seen about 6,000 patients.
More than 500 lawsuits were filed against Heaps and UCLA, accusing the school of failing to protect patients after becoming aware of the misconduct.
The lawsuits alleged that UCLA actively and deliberately concealed Heaps’ sexual abuse of patients. UCLA continued to allow Heaps to have unfettered sexual access to female patients — many of whom were cancer patients — at the university, plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged in the suits.
UCLA issued a statement Tuesday saying, “This agreement, combined with earlier settlements involving other plaintiffs, resolves the vast majority of the claims alleging sexual misconduct by James Heaps, a former UCLA Health physician. Heaps’ alleged conduct is both reprehensible, and against our values. We are grateful to everyone who came forward. We hope this settlement can help the plaintiffs.
“We are committed to providing high-quality care that respects each patient’s dignity. We take every step to ensure the health and well-being of all our patients to retain public trust and confidence.
The university described a number of safety measures that would be taken to ensure student and patient safety. It stated that the agreement would not have any impact on UCLA’s research, teaching, and service activities, as well student life and campus activities. It will be covered under the UC systemwide risk financing and insurance program. Any additional required resources will be provided by UCLA Health and campus operating revenue.”
Heaps is charged with 21 counts of sexual abuse of women in state court. Heaps was accused of sexually attacking seven women. If convicted, Heaps could spend more than 67 years prison.
Settlement of the federal case last year required UCLA to ensure stronger oversight procedures for identification, prevention and reporting of sexual misconduct.
The federal lawsuits alleged that while patients complained about Heaps years earlier, it was not until late 2017 that allegations of sexual misconduct by the gynecologist were reported to UCLA’s Title IX office and a formal investigation was opened.
Heaps was allowed to continue seeing patients — both during the investigation and after UCLA informed Heaps that his contract would not be renewed when it expired on June 30, 2018.
UCLA ended Heaps’ employment and notified law enforcement of the allegations against him on June 14, 2018.
Heaps was charged with multiple charges of sexual battery in June 2019. Many more women reported allegations of sexual misconduct to Heaps after his arrest. Heaps was further charged in August 2020.
In a similar case, USC paid more than $1.1 Billion to George Tyndall’s former patients in March 2021. This was the largest ever sex abuse settlement in higher education.
Tyndall — the only full-time gynecologist at the student health clinic from 1989 until 2016 — has pleaded not guilty to dozens of sexual assault charges.