Breaking down University of Southern California's $1.1 billion in sex abuse settlements

They all involve claims against former university gynecologist George Tyndall.

March 27, 2021, 5:03 AM

One chapter in the sex abuse claims against George Tyndall closed this week, when the University of Southern California agreed in state court to a likely record-making settlement for patients of the former university gynecologist.

The civil settlement brings an end to litigation brought by former patients of Tyndall, school officials said. Combined with a 2018 federal class-action agreement and several dozen other settlements that have not been made public, the amount paid out by the Los Angeles university to federal and state plaintiffs exceeds $1.1 billion, according to school officials.

The state and federal settlements involve thousands of former patients of Tyndall, who is currently awaiting trial on 35 criminal counts of alleged sexual misconduct that occurred at the university's student health center from 2009 to 2016. He has pleaded not guilty.

George Tyndall, the former USC campus gynecologist charged with sexually assaulting 16 patients over the course of seven years appears in Los Angeles Superior Court with his attorney Andrew Flier for arraignment, July 1, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A 2018 investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that Tyndall had been the subject of complaints of sexual misconduct since the 1990s. He was suspended in 2016 before resigning the following year.

Upon agreeing to the latest settlement, the university said it has been its goal to "resolve this litigation in a way that is fair to the women who were abused by Tyndall."

Here's a look at the major settlements, who is getting them and how they're being paid.

$852 million civil settlement

The $852 million figure is likely the largest settlement for sex abuse survivors in history, lawyers involved with the suit said. Previously, Michigan State University's $500 million settlement in 2018 for claims against sports doctor Larry Nassar was considered the largest.

USC reached the agreement on Thursday with 710 plaintiffs who filed suit in California state court.

The agreement comprises two settlements -- one totaling $842.4 million for 702 plaintiffs and a second totaling $9.2 million for eight plaintiffs -- according to lawyers for several of the plaintiffs.

To file in state court, plaintiffs had to allege they were damaged in an amount greater than $250,000, consult with a mental health practitioner and retain counsel.

The average payment for the settlement is $1.2 million, though the exact allocation of damages will be reviewed by a neutral third party. Each plaintiff will be entitled to at least $250,000.

USC will pay $1.1 billion to settle decades of sex abuse claims against gynecologist George Tyndall who worked for many years at the Engemann Student Health Center, March 25, 2021, in Los Angeles.
Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/Polaris

The settlement will be paid in two installments, in August 2021 and August 2022, the lawyers said.

The university plans to pay out the settlement "largely through a combination of litigation reserves, insurance proceeds, deferred capital spending, sale of non-essential assets, and careful management of non-essential expenses," USC President Carol L. Folt said in a letter to the school community.

"No philanthropic gifts, endowment funds, or tuition will be redirected from their intended purposes," she said.

$215 million federal class action agreement

The latest lawsuit follows a 2018 federal class-action settlement, in which USC agreed to pay out $215 million to anyone who received women's health services from Tyndall at the university's student health center, whether or not there was any alleged sexual misconduct.

In all, 16,019 claimants have received payments of $2,500, according to USC. Additionally, class members could seek payments between $7,500 and $250,000, which were set to be issued this month.

The average settlement for the class action's top-paying tier, seeking the greatest damages, was $96,000, according to several lawyers involved in the civil settlement. Plaintiffs in the civil suit, who had opted out of the class action but had to retain counsel, will end up receiving substantially higher payouts.

The class-action settlement agreement also required USC to implement reforms to help prevent sexual and gender-based harassment. Those have included instituting a pre-hiring background check for all new personnel, including physicians, and revising its performance reviews for identifying and reporting improper sexual conduct, among other measures.