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13 Jul, 2021 14:55

More than 5,500 alleged sex abuse victims of Los Angeles gynecologist to share $73 million payout

More than 5,500 alleged sex abuse victims of Los Angeles gynecologist to share $73 million payout

A US court has approved the settlement of a class action suit ordering a multimillion-dollar payment to women allegedly abused by the same gynecologist. The doctor is accused of having taken advantage of more than 5,500 patients.

Dr. James Heaps, 64, worked at several medical centers at the University of California (UCLA) in Los Angeles for decades and, until his retirement in 2018 when management declined to renew his contract, the gynecologist had allegedly sexually abused women during appointments.

Heaps is accused of groping patients, making inappropriate comments during examinations, simulating sexual intercourse during vaginal ultrasound procedures and undressing women without consent. Victims also said he made overly frequent appointments for some of them to create additional opportunities for abuse, CBSN Los Angeles reported.

The abuse dates back to 1983, allegations suggest, and Heaps’ employer UCLA has been accused by women of not taking any action following numerous complaints from patients, failing to protect them and enabling more abuse.
Even after a formal investigation into the doctor’s alleged misconduct was launched at the university, he was reportedly allowed to carry on with appointments.

Following Heaps’ arrest in 2019, more women came forward to report alleged sexual harassment. According to the settlement that was given final approval by a federal judge this week, all potential victims will be paid an automatic compensation from UCLA of $2,500 each. Those who come forward with further specific claims of abuse can seek up to $250,000.

In a separate criminal case, the doctor, who denies any wrongdoing, is facing 21 counts of abuse by seven women. If convicted on all charges, he faces more than 67 years in prison.

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While we can’t comment on the specifics of today’s legal action, we can say unequivocally that sexual misconduct or abuse is inexcusable,” UCLA Health said in a statement on Monday. The university also earlier made changes in gynecologist appointments’ procedures at its clinics, providing supervision of a trained chaperone during intimate physical examinations of patients, unless they opt out.

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