On January 8, 2021, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California granted preliminary approval of a $73 million class settlement of a sexual abuse case against UCLA and its oncology OB/GYN Dr. James Heaps. The final approval hearing is set for July 12, 2021.
Girard Sharp, along with co-counsel from Gibbs Law Group and Erickson Kramer Osborne, negotiated the landmark settlement with the UC Regents. The case was brought by several women who allege Heaps sexually abused them at UCLA medical facilities while he was a gynecologist there between 1983 and 2018.
The settlement offers three tiers of compensation for class members. All class members will receive an automatic Tier 1 payment of $2,500 and can apply for additional compensation. Tier 2 claimants can receive up to an additional $10,000, and Tier 3 claimants are eligible to receive up to $250,000, or more in extraordinary cases. Tier 2 and Tier 3 claim awards are contingent upon providing additional proof that will be confidentially reviewed by a court-appointed special master and other medical experts experienced in handling sexual abuse claims.
In addition to compensation, the settlement requires institutional reforms at UCLA. The university will adopt a new model for investigating alleged sexual harassment, require a trained chaperone be present during sensitive examinations, provide boundaries training for every physician, send a notice informing patients how to report sexual misconduct, and require the disclosure and assessment of any allegations of sexual misconduct during the credentialing or re-credentialing process for medical professionals. A compliance monitor will be appointed to oversee the implementation of these policies.
The settlement is expected to benefit about 6,600 of Heaps’s former patients, including 5,500 class members identified by UCLA patient records. The entirety of the $73 million settlement fund will go to the class members—related fees will be paid separately by UCLA.