June 6th, 2018–BUSINESSWIRE–Lieff Cabraser and Sauder Schelkopf LLC have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of individuals who were sexually abused, harassed, and molested by gynecologist George Tyndall, M.D. while they were students at University of Southern California (“USC”).
While attending USC as a student, the representative Plaintiff—who is named only as Jane Doe 1 to protect her privacy—was forced to repeatedly seek medical treatment from Tyndall, who was the only full-time gynecologist on staff at USC’s Student Health Clinic. “My experience with Dr. Tyndall was very upsetting,” said the Plaintiff Jane Doe 1. “I felt violated as a woman and betrayed as a patient. I trusted that my doctor would have my health and best interests in mind, but instead he preyed on me and on other young, naive women.” Her lawsuit alleges Tyndall used this position of trust and authority to repeatedly sexually abuse her and potentially thousands of other class members, women who were examined by Dr. Tyndall at USC.
“I was scared to speak up,” said the Plaintiff, “but I know it’s the only way to bring justice, empower other women who are victims of sexual abuse, deter other health professionals from abusing their patients, and force educational institutions to put their students first.”
The suit also alleges that despite USC’s public admission that it received numerous complaints of Tyndall’s sexually abusive behavior, dating back to at least the year 2000, USC actively and deliberately concealed Tyndall’s sexual abuse for years, continuing to grant Tyndall unfettered sexual access to the female USC students in his care, all to protect USC’s reputation and financial coffers. Read a copy of the Complaint.
“Those who irresponsibly put sexual predators in a position of authority or trust, giving them access and opportunity to molest their victims, share the blame for the harm they cause,” said Annika K. Martin of Lieff Cabraser, who is herself an alumnus of USC’s law school. “It is even more shameful when institutions that we entrust our children to help sexual predators by silencing complaints and covering the predator’s tracks.”
According to the lawsuit, Plaintiff and the other members of the Class had no reason to suspect Tyndall was anything other than a competent and ethical physician. Knowing that Plaintiff and other members of the Class were trusting and vulnerable – and in many cases still teenagers who had never visited a gynecologist before – Tyndall used his position of authority to make Plaintiff and other victims fully disrobe for no reasonable medical purpose, then fondled and groped their breasts and other intimate areas while making suggestive and improper comments, used his fingers to penetrate their vaginas and genital regions for the purpose of his own sexual arousal and gratification, and engaged in verbal discussions about inappropriate sexual topics, for no legitimate medical purpose and for no other reason than to satisfy his own prurient sexual desires. Tyndall also made racially discriminatory and sexually harassing comments.
“This is not what you expect to happen when our daughters go off to college. USC’s silence is a betrayal to these victims and their families. Our client is courageously adding her voice on behalf of the many women who have been victimized as the result of USC’s silence,” said Plaintiff’s attorney Joe Sauder of Sauder Schelkopf.
Through his employment with USC, Tyndall also allegedly used his position of authority as a medical professional to take hundreds of nonconsensual and medically unwarranted photographs of female genitalia under the guise of medical “treatment.” The Complaint notes that Tyndall particularly targeted young students, many of whom were foreign students, and who were frequently unfamiliar with the nature of gynecological examinations as a result of their youth, inexperience, and/or cultural background. Many of these young women did not know that what Tyndall was doing during the examinations was not proper protocol and did not realize he was engaging in sexual misconduct, sexually violating them, and/or taking advantage of them.
As alleged in the complaint, beginning in approximately the 1990’s, USC began receiving reports from its students and employees regarding concerns about Tyndall’s conduct and “treatment” of his patients; nonetheless, USC failed to take any action in response to such complaints. USC received numerous complaints of serious misconduct, including sexual misconduct by Tyndall made to Tyndall’s supervisors and other administrators employed by USC, including but not limited to, the executive director of its health center and other university officials.
The complaint alleges that rather than addressing and properly investigating the complaints, including taking appropriate disciplinary action and/or terminating the employment of Tyndall, USC kept the complaints secret to avoid negative publicity despite their actual knowledge of such misconduct, so that for over 30 years, Tyndall had unfettered access to female students – many of them as young as 17 or 18 years old – through the student health clinics at USC.
USC hid the complaints despite the fact that many of the complaints came directly from its own employees and staff, including nurses and medical assistants who were physically present during the examinations as “chaperones,” and witnessed the sexual misconduct firsthand. Despite receiving years of serious complaints of significant misconduct about Tyndall, including sexual misconduct, USC failed to take any meaningful action to address the complaints until it was finally forced to do so in June 2016.
“He should never have been an OBGYN this long at USC,” Plaintiff Jane Doe 1 said. “He should have been stopped from sexually abusing his patients.”
As further alleged in the complaint, in or around June of 2016, complaints about Tyndall were made to the executive director USC’s rape crisis center, known as Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services, and photographs of female genitalia were found in Tyndall’s office. Only at this time did USC place Tyndall on administrative leave and investigate the complaints made in 2016 through its OED, Office of Compliance, Risk Management. Also, not until this time did USC contract an outside consulting firm, which determined that Tyndall “exhibited unprofessional and inappropriate behavior” and that his pelvic exams were outside “current standards of care.” Upon information and belief, following the investigation, Tyndall was permitted to quietly “retire” from USC with an unknown amount of settlement money.
On or about May 15, 2018, then-USC President C.L. Max Nikias sent a letter to the USC community indicating that Tyndall’s “behavior was completely unacceptable. It was a clear violation of our Principles of Community, and a shameful betrayal of our values” and calling the behavior a “profound breach of trust.” Approximately one week after the letter from President Nikias was sent to the USC community and after about 200 faculty members petitioned for his resignation, USC announced his resignation. At no time did USC inform Plaintiff, the public or any other students or patients of the concerns that led to Tyndall being relieved from his duties at USC and his subsequent “retirement.”
About Sauder Schelkopf LLC
Sauder Schelkopf LLC is a nationally recognized class action and personal injury law firm protecting the rights of individuals, small businesses, employees, and consumers. The firm’s partners have been selected by the National Trial Lawyers Association as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Pennsylvania since 2012. As former state prosecutors, the attorneys at Sauder Schelkopf have significant experience investigating and aggressively prosecuting hundreds of sexual assault cases against criminals who victimized innocent people.
About Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
Recognized as “one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ firms” by The American Lawyer, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP is a seventy-plus attorney law firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Nashville. Since our founding 46 years ago in 1972, Lieff Cabraser has litigated and resolved hundreds of class action lawsuits and thousands of individual cases, including the successful representation of thousands of women across America in class action lawsuits involving gender discrimination and in individual lawsuits due to the injuries they suffered from defective medical devices and defective prescription drugs.
Annika K. Martin
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
Joseph G. Sauder
Sauder Schelkopf LLC