“System Failed”: California University sued over alleged sex abuse by doctor

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Five women filed lawsuits on Monday alleging that a doctor who worked at the University of Southern California for nearly three decades sexually abused them and that the school failed to address the misconduct. The two civil lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court list in graphic detail years of alleged abuse by George Tyndall, who worked as a gynecologist at the university’s Student Health Center until he retired last year.

One of the women, who were not identified in the lawsuits, alleges that Tyndall forced his entire hand and wrist into her vagina while examining her during an appointment in 2003 and made vulgar comments about her genitalia. Another woman details how Tyndall, 71, groped her breasts and leered at her on her first appointment with a gynecologist in 2008.

“Just before groping her breasts, Tyndall would lecherously rub his hands together in front of plaintiff … and would say ‘I just want to get them warm for you’,” according to the lawsuit, copy of which was obtained by AFP. The lawsuits allege that the university failed to act against Tyndall despite complaints being filed as early as 2000. They say that the school only launched a probe in 2016 after a supervising nurse upset at USC’s inaction reported him to the campus rape crisis center.

“Rather than addressing and properly investigating the complaints, including taking appropriate disciplinary action and/or terminating the employment of Tyndall, the USC defendants kept the complaints secret to avoid negative publicity despite their actual knowledge of such misconduct,” one of the lawsuits states.

Tyndall could not be reached for comment on Monday. In earlier interviews with the Los Angeles Times, which first wrote about the alleged abuse, he said he had “done nothing wrong” and had “never had any sexual urges” toward patients. The university acknowledged last week that the abuse allegations should have been handled differently and issued an apology to Tyndall’s patients.

“It is true that our system failed, but it is important that you know that this claim of a cover-up is patently false,” provost Michael Quick wrote in a letter. “We would never knowingly put students in harm’s way.”

More than 200 women have come forward to complain about Tyndall since the university established a dedicated hotline and website.

The lawsuits claims that Tyndall preyed on young female patients — who included members of the school’s growing Chinese student population — because they were often unfamiliar with gynecological exams.

The scandal resembles a similar case involving Larry Nassar, a doctor who sexually abused hundreds of patients while working at Michigan State University.

The school last week announced a $500 million settlement with victims of the USA Gymnastics doctor.