UCLA Pays Over $3.5M to Settle James Heaps Sexual Assault Allegations
The former UCLA gynecologist has pleaded not guilty to the allegations and said he will not contribute any money to the settlement.
The University of California, Los Angeles has paid more than $3.5 million in settlements over a former gynecologist accused of sexual assault.
Dr. James Heaps was accused of sexually assaulting his patient in February 2018 during an appointment, reports the LA Times. He was charged in early June with sexual battery in connection with two patients — one whose claim was settled last month for $2.25 million.
The university also released a copy of a settlement in March of almost $1.3 million with a UCLA nurse practitioner who alleged she was sexually harassed by Heaps. She also claimed he retaliated against her for participating in the investigations of him.
Heaps’ attorney, Tracy Green, said the retaliation claim stemmed from Heaps reaching out to the nurse and asking her if she was OK. University officials told him that was a violation of the university’s no-contact policy during a Title IX investigation.
Green said her client was a “respected, talented and thorough gynecological oncologist” whose treatment was always medically necessary and done with respect for patients.
She added that Heaps will not contribute any money to June’s settlement and that the investigation was “sloppy and careless” because the university never pulled medical charts or conducted in-depth interviews with staff and patients.
“[UCLA] genuinely said, ‘Oh no, this will keep things confidential – we don’t want it to blow up like what happened to USC,’” Green said, referencing Dr. George Tyndall, a USC campus gynecologist accused of sexually abusing hundreds of students during nearly three decades at a campus clinic.
UCLA officials have apologized for their handling of the case, acknowledging that there could have been better communication with patients.
Heaps retired in June 2018 and the university kept all reference to patient allegations against him private until last month.
As part of the June settlement, the victim will meet with UCLA officials and help make recommendations for how the university should handle patient complaints in the future.
UCLA Let Heaps Continue Working After an Accusation in 2014
UCLA Medical Center learned in 2014 that a cancer patient made abuse allegations against Heaps, reports KTLA. Officials did not consider firing him until four years later.
The patient told UCLA Health about inappropriate touching and comments during a medical consultation and that she was “completely shocked and embarrassed.” She also filed a complaint with the California Medical Board.
A month later, a UCLA health manager told the patient that officials had “thoroughly reviewed and investigated” the allegations, but did not inform her of the review’s outcome.
The manager said that the internal process was “confidential and remains protected information.”