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paying up

USC will pay $852 million to 700 women, pushing gynecologist abuse settlements above $1.1 billion

The University of Southern California announced Thursday it has agreed to an $852 million settlement with about 700 women who say they were abused or subject to sexual harassment by Dr. Gorge Tyndall, a USC gynecologist for more than 30 years before being suspended in 2016 and arrested three years later. Combined with two other settlements, including a $215 million federal class action settled in 2018, USC has paid more than $1.1 billion to Tyndall's former patients.

USC officials called the final settlement "fair and reasonable" and "the end of a painful and ugly chapter in the history of our university." John Manly, a lawyer representing more than 230 of the plaintiffs, said "the enormous size of this settlement speaks to the immense harm done to our clients and the culpability of USC," which "knew early on, in the early '90s and all the way through his tenure, that this was happening."

Manly said Thursday's massive settlement would be distributed among plaintiffs in amounts ranging from $250,000 to several million dollars. USC President Carol Folt said it will be financed through a combination of "litigation reserves, insurance proceeds, deferred capital spending, sale of nonessential assets, and careful management of nonessential expenses," but not tuition, philanthropic gifts, or the university's $5.9 billion endowment.

The settlement dwarfs any previous collegiate sexual abuse payouts, including the $500 million settlement Michigan State University agreed to in 2018 with 332 women alleging sexual abuse at the hands of university sports doctor Larry Nassar. The record payout is "a recognition of suffering, and it's a pretty stunning mea culpa," Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, tells The New York Times. "It's an admission of liability" for "hundreds of cases where the university had knowledge or without much diligence could have known what was going on, and failed to put an end to it."

Tyndall, 74, is awaiting trial on 35 felony counts. He has pleaded not guilty.