UCLA Sexual Abuse Scandal

EKO attorneys, along with co-counsel, jointly filed a class action complaint on behalf of women who were seen for treatment by gynecologist Dr. James Heaps at UCLA Health medical facilities.

The suit, originally filed in 2019, alleged that Heaps abused and assaulted patients while working at UCLA medical facilities. The plaintiffs have now filed a class action settlement to resolve their claims. The agreement ensures the implementation of robust procedures for identification, prevention, and reporting of sexual misconduct in the clinical setting. In addition, the settlement creates a $73 million fund for the benefit of Heaps’s former patients and gives each survivor a choice in how to participate. The agreement has been approved by Central District of California Judge Honorable R. Gary Klausner.

The $73 million will go towards compensating more than 5,500 women who received treatment from Heaps at either the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center from 1986-2018, the school’s student health center from 1983-2010, or Heaps’s university medical office from 2014-2018. The settlement structure provides all survivors with recognition and a way to seek compensation in a swifter and more private manner than protracted litigation.

Dr. Heaps practiced at UCLA Health Center, Ronald Reagan UCLA Hospital, and UCLA Medical Group. In June 2019, he was arrested and has been charged with sexual battery and sexual exploitation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Many women have come forward with allegations that Heaps engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct during their exams.

 

The settlement offers three tiers of compensation:

  • Tier 1: Women who have been pre-identified as class members based on university records will automatically receive a $2,500 payment without any action required on their part. All Tier 1 victims are also eligible to apply for Tier 2 or Tier 3 compensation.

  • Tier 2: Women who share additional information about their experience with Dr. Heaps may be eligible to receive an additional payment of $10,000, for a total Tier 2 payment of $12,500. Each Tier 2 claim is reviewed by an impartial, three-person panel that includes a court-appointed special master, a forensic psychologist/psychiatrist and an OB-GYN.

  • Tier 3: Victims who provide further evidence are interviewed by a member of the special master’s team about their experience. Submitting a Tier 3 Claim is optional, and participants may be eligible for a total payment between $12,500 and $250,000. An additional $5 million is set aside for certain claimants within Tier 3, and the panel will make awards in excess of $250,000 in the most serious cases.

In addition to compensation, UCLA has undertaken a series of reforms, including:

  • Implementing a new investigation model for sexual harassment/sexual assault;

  • Improved chaperone policies that, among other things, require annual training;

  • Notice to patients of reporting options;  

  • Training for UCLA medical facilities personnel on provider-patient boundaries and on conducting sensitive examinations;

  • Enhanced due diligence during the credentialing and recredentialing process and in connection with UCLA Health’s acquisition of a physician or group practice;

  • Appointment of a compliance monitor to facilitate, oversee and evaluate implementation of these institutional changes.

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