The $215-million settlement with patients treated by USC gynecologist George Tyndall announced Friday is probably just a fraction of what the university will end up paying in the scandal. But even so, it ranks among the biggest by universities in sexual abuse cases, experts say.
Among other huge settlements: Michigan State University reached a $500-million settlement this year with victims of sports doctor Larry Nassar. In recent years, Penn State has paid out more than $100 million to victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The USC proposal would provide a minimum of $2,500 to every student who saw Tyndall at the campus health clinic and up to $250,000 to students who allege they were abused by him.
Many universities have paid far larger sums to people who have alleged sexual misconduct. UC Berkeley made a $1.7-million settlement last year with an employee who accused a professor of harassment. UC Santa Cruz made a $1.15-million settlement last year with a student who claimed a professor assaulted her.
But experts say the USC settlement is not likely to be the end of the university’s payouts.
The proposed settlement covers former patients who joined a federal class-action lawsuit but does not resolve the hundreds of claims made in state court. John Nockleby, director of the Civil Justice Program at Loyola Law School, said the university could end up paying tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, more to Tyndall’s former patients.
“This settlement is an acknowledgment by USC of the devastating harm that these women have undergone, and by recognizing their responsibility, they are responding not only to the victims, but also to the clamor from the institution itself — the faculty, the students, the staff,” he said. “But my prediction is that this is not the end of the road.”
Here’s how the other big settlements have shaken out:
Penn State and Sandusky
Penn State initially settled with 33 victims of Sandusky for $93 million, but it has since made more payouts, bringing the new total to $109 million.
Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing boys and was sentenced to a 60-year term in prison, which he is now serving.
Michigan State and Nassar
Earlier this year, Michigan State University announced that it will pay $500 million to settle lawsuits brought by 332 victims of Nassar, the former associate professor and doctor who sexually abused hundreds of young girls and women.
Nassar, who worked for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, pleaded guilty to molesting girls who came to him with sports injuries. He is now serving time behind bars.
Harry Nelson, a healthcare lawyer in Los Angeles, said that based on the allegations against Tyndall, it appears more people were egregiously abused by Nassar. Yet, he pointed out, the Tyndall payment is not significantly smaller, a sign that society’s tolerance for bad behavior is going down.
“The Larry Nassar case informs this case dramatically,” he said. “The fact that it’s only twice as much is telling to me that the value of these cases and the cost of allowing situations that shouldn’t be allowed to continue to go on is going up for all institutions.”