The University of California, Los Angeles, reached a million-dollar settlement to end sexual abuse allegations made by hundreds of women against a former university gynecologist, lawyers announced Tuesday, Feb. 8.
The first news of the signed agreement was released Monday by some of the lawyers representing 203 women who accused the physician, Dr. James Heaps, of groping or otherwise abusing them.
The $246.3 million settlement will cover cases involving these 203 women who were victims of the former UCLA gynecologist during his 35-year career. Each will receive $1.2 million, attorneys said.
The case caused a particular stir because most of the women complainants had turned to Heaps for cancer treatments or screenings.
One of the victims, who was targeted by Heaps 8 years ago when she was at a very vulnerable time as she was undergoing treatment for a rare form of breast cancer, testified:
“I could never have imagined that someone would have taken such despicable advantage of me during that time. It was so traumatic that I left in tears,” she said, adding that “my heart breaks for all the women who were not spared.”
The lawsuits alleged that the University of California had ignored the abuse for decades and deliberately covered it up, according to the Associated Press.
Julie Wallach, another of the women who claims she was abused by Heaps in 1990, said she had waited 20 years for this moment, citing the indifference she experienced from UCLA and the medical board when she reported the abuse to them, “No one listened,” she said.
“There was no one else to turn to. I mean, who do you fight,” she added. “The emotional toll on him over the years has been tremendous.”
Meanwhile UCLA said in a statement, “The conduct allegedly committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to the university’s values.”
It added, “We express our gratitude to the courageous individuals who came forward, and we hope this settlement is a step toward healing and closure for the plaintiffs involved.”
UCLA began investigating Heaps in 2017, who retired in 2018 after the university refused to renew his contract.
The gynecologist additionally was indicted in 2021 for 21 sex offenses toward seven women, but pleaded not guilty to all of them.
John C. Manly, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, called Heaps a sophisticated predator and said, according to the Washington Post, “The idea that for 30 years he preyed on these women who were incredibly vulnerable shocks the conscience.”