UCLA settles physician sexual abuse lawsuits for $243.6M

UCLA settles physician sexual abuse lawsuits for $243.6M


The University of California, Los Angeles, has agreed to a $243.6 million settlement covering 50 cases involving alleged sexual abuse by a gynecologist the academic institution employed for decades.

According accusations by 203 women who sued the university in state court, Dr. James Heaps committed numerous acts of sexual abuse and misconduct during his time at UCLA Health and the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center from the 1980s through 2018. UCLA announced the settlement Tuesday.

Heaps is under indictment on 21 criminal charges that he committed sexual offenses against seven women. The physician, whose license is suspended, pleaded not guilty.

The plaintiffs charged in their lawsuits that UCLA didn’t act quickly enough when they reported Heaps.

In addition to paying out $1.2 million to each woman, UCLA Health has established measures to prevent, detect and address sexual misconduct, according to the university.

UCLA Health and the student health center have begun implementing several directives, including increasing their Title IX resources to assemble a team to coordinate effective and timely responses to reports of sexual harassment, improving chaperon policies for sensitive exams and procedures, and instituting rigorous pre-hiring and credentialing protocols.

In a statement, UCLA said Heaps’ alleged conduct “is reprehensible and contrary to the university’s values,” and that the university hopes the settlement will provide healing and closure for the women involved.

“We reiterate our ongoing commitment to never tolerate sexual violence or harassment in any form,” the statement says. “Allegations of sexual misconduct by any healthcare provider will be promptly addressed, and appropriate actions will be taken to ensure our patients are safe, protected and respected.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney did not provide a comment.

Heaps is the subject of this and hundreds of other lawsuits from women alleging abuse, many of who were in treatment for cancer.

In 2021, UCLA agreed to pay $73 million to settle a class action lawsuit involving more than 100 women. These patients said Heaps groped them, simulated intercourse with an ultrasound probe or made sexual comments during pelvic and breast examinations at various times during his 35-year career.

Heaps began working at UCLA in 1983 and retired in 2018—the year after the university opened its investigation into his conduct—when UCLA didn’t renew his contract.

UCLA impaneled an independent investigative committee in 2019 to review its response to patients’ complaints about Heap. The panel issued a report recommending new policies and procedures to address and prevent sexual abuse.


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