Attorney Michael Pierce served as co-counsel in an $851.6 million settlement regarding the University of Southern California (USC) George Tyndall sexual abuse scandal. This is the largest settlement amount for a sexual abuse case in history — larger than those involving the Catholic Church or the Michigan State University incidents.
The grand total awarded is $851.6 million for 710 plaintiffs. This is broken down into two settlements of $842.4 million for 702 plaintiffs and $9.2 million for 8 plaintiffs.
The case average for each client is about $1.2 million. This is a significantly larger amount than those who joined the class action, who received around $2,500 each on average per case.
The former USC gynecologist has surrendered his medical license, as scores of women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Tyndall.
His conduct, among other things, included inappropriate touching, photographing sensitive body parts, making inappropriate comments, and performing physical exams that were medically unnecessary. He would often draw the curtains so that attending nurses could not see what was going on or intervene.
These violations have left the victims with deep-seated trauma and long-term psychological damage. The compensation achieved by the settlement will help victims obtain the resources for recovery and justice needed for their losses.
Attorney Michael Pierce of Pierce Skrabanek, PLLC states, “Our firm is extremely proud of our role in helping the victims of Dr. Tyndall receive some measure of justice for what they have suffered. While no amount of money can undo what happened, holding USC and Dr. Tyndall accountable for their actions was important to our clients and to us. With this settlement, I believe that we have succeeded.”
Besides providing financial compensation for the victims, the USC case has sparked a number of changes that will facilitate reporting and monitoring of these types of incidents in the future.
Statute of Limitations Lifted
The work of Attorney Pierce and other counsel resulted in a lifting of the statute of limitations (SOL), allowing more victims to come forward and file a claim. We did important work in Sacramento, California in order to fight for this important procedural change.
One of the main challenges is that sexual abuse victims may often be hesitant to come forward. A lifting of the filing deadlines allows those victims who feel silenced to share their stories and obtain the closure they deserve.
Changes to USC’s Policies and Standards
A combination of factors at the USC campus contributed to the environment that allowed Tyndall’s actions to persist and be repeated over years.
To illustrate, a federal investigation revealed that campus officials and staff mishandled Tyndall’s sexual abuse reports for years, and failed to act on decades of reports of his abusive actions. Employees turned a blind eye to the allegations that had been gathering. The findings also revealed that even the university’s top brass knew about allegations against Tyndall, but failed to communicate them to federal agents. Dismantling this veil of secrecy and inaction is an important part of bringing perpetrators to justice.
In response, USC formed an agreement with the Education Department to create a centralized record-keeping system, which will track misconduct complaints against campus employees and monitor the school officials’ responses. USC President Carol Folt stated that the university will comply with the department’s orders and that the school is “implementing changes necessary to inform its future.”
Therefore, apart from monetary compensation, the lawsuit has brought about several significant changes, many of which will bring about significant change in the area of sexual harassment law and policy. It is an example of the power and potential that legal action has to bring about real, palpable change in our communities.
Celebrating a Collaborative Team Effort
We would also like to thank all of those who collaborated with us and devoted countless hours to this project and contributed to its overall success.
Sexual abuse is one of the most egregious types of violations. It can derail the lives of victims and leave them with lifelong challenges. We are confident that this settlement will pave the way for future changes that will provide enhanced protection in universities and medical settings throughout the country.
If you believe that you have been a victim of sexual misconduct, you are not alone. Reach out to us at (832) 690-7000 for guidance and counseling on your legal rights and how to proceed. Speaking out and taking action may help reveal other violations and can help put a stop to systemic, recurring abuses.