UCLA has offered to pay $73 million to settle a class action lawsuit on behalf of 5,500 former patients of Dr. James Heap, a former obstetrician and gynecologist who worked at UCLA from 1983 to 2018.
Heaps was arrested in June 2019 on sexual battery charges. He now faces 20 felony charges of sexual assault from his former patients.
One of the criminal complaints involves a 48-year-old mother who said Heaps improperly placed his fingers in her vagina during an exam.
Another criminal complaint involves a young woman who said Heaps improperly fingered her genital ring piercing during an exam in 2017. She also said he inappropriately touched her buttocks and breasts.
After his arrest, many women accused Heaps of making sexually suggestive comments, removing their clothing without consent, inappropriate sexual touching during exams, not using gloves during pelvic exams, and more.
The settlement will create a $73 million fund for survivors. Class members can get an automatic payment of $2,500 without taking any further action. Survivors who come forward can seek up to $250,000.
Soon after the settlement was announced, John Manly, a prominent sex abuse lawyer who represents 112 of Heaps’ patients, said his clients won’t be part of the settlement.
He said, “This is a cynical settlement to benefit class-action lawyers and the UC system. They struck this deal to avoid victims having their day in court.”
If more than 250 women opt out of the settlement and decide to pursue lawsuits, the UC Board of Regents could pull out of the deal.
In 2019, the UC regents paid $2.25 million to one women who claimed that Heaps sexually assaulted her during an exam.