The Los Angeles Times reported last month that USC failed to act on decades of complaints from patients of George Tyndall, the university's sole on-campus gynecologist. Several patients told the Times that he sexually assaulted them during examinations. Clinic staff members corroborated their accounts. The bombshell report provoked student and faculty protests, which led to the ouster of President Max Nikias.
In the wake of this explosive story, more than a half-dozen lawsuits were filed against USC and Tyndall. More than 200 faculty members signed a letter calling for Nikias' resignation, arguing that he had "lost the moral authority to lead" the university. This was the third scandal involving the school in less than a year.
Police opened a criminal investigation into Tyndall's alleged misconduct with complaints against the doctor dating from 1990 to 2016—nearly his entire tenure at USC. In that period, police estimate he could have treated over 10,000 women, the Associated Press reported.
The university set up a hotline for Tyndall's former patients. More than 400 women spoke out with complaints in less than two weeks.
Mike Arias, founder and partner of the Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Torrijos law firm, filed one of the class-action lawsuits against the university. He said that it wasn't just students who sought Tyndall's services, but staff members and their children as well.
In Arias' lawsuit and several others filed throughout May, more than 100 women have come forward with graphic accounts of Tyndall's behavior.
For many women, Tyndall was the first gynecologist they had seen. Several of the lawsuits allege his patients often did not know enough to realize his behavior was inappropriate. Some suits claim that Tyndall specifically targeted international students unfamiliar with American medical care and lacking the language skills to complain.
It wasn't until the LA Times article broke that many patients understood they had been sexually assaulted.
According to multiple lawsuits, Tyndall watched his patients as they undressed, having them lie on the exam table completely nude, without the typical paper gown. He would remark on their bodies, commenting on patients' "perky breasts," and "creamy," "beautiful," and "flawless" skin.
In one lawsuit, former patient Sade Thompson alleged that Tyndall pulled down her shirt to expose her breasts and pierced nipples. She said he touched her nipples and asked, "Do they feel better now when they are being touched?"
All of the lawsuits allege that these fully nude examinations and commentary served no legitimate medical purpose. USC's own internal investigation supported this conclusion.
During exams, Tyndall told some patients that their hymens were still intact, but that their boyfriends "would love it." He would insert his fingers, often ungloved, into his patients' vaginas in the beginning of exams. He remarked, "you must be a runner," to one patient. He often made sexual comments while his fingers were inside patients.
One lawsuit alleged that Tyndall moved his fingers in and out of a patient while asking her about her sex life. He stimulated her g-spot under the guise of a medical exam while she laid helplessly on his examination table.
Another patient came to Tyndall complaining of a yeast infection due to antibiotic use, according to one lawsuit. Tyndall told her that she probably had a sexually transmitted disease—a statement that the lawsuit said had no basis in fact.
The lawsuits allege that Tyndall would graze his ungloved hand over patients' entire bodies, including their breasts and buttocks. One lawsuit claimed that Tyndall spread a patient's naked buttocks cheeks and leered at her crevice and anus.
The same lawsuit relayed an account from a former patient who was 18 years old when she saw Tyndall. It said that he inserted his entire ungloved hand, up to his wrist, into her vagina. He remarked, "You know what they say about tall women," according to the lawsuit. The nurse chaperone who was present for the examination deliberately looked away.
He often took pictures of his patients' genitals, with one chaperone who said she witnessed 50 to 100 patients photographed. This is an unusual volume of photographs for a gynecologist, the LA Times said.
All of this behavior disturbed nurse chaperones.
An internal USC investigation found that between 2000 and 2016, eight complaints from patients and nurse chaperones were lodged with the university.
"Several of the complaints were concerning enough that it is not clear today why the former health center director permitted Tyndall to remain in his position," the university said in a statement.
It wasn't until 2016 when Cindy Gilbert, a nursing supervisor for the clinic, went to the campus' rape crisis center to report Tyndall. She told Ekta Kumar, the executive director of the center, "We can't get anyone to act on it," according to one lawsuit. Tyndall quietly resigned from his position last summer and received a severance package.
Only after the LA Times broke the story did the university publicly acknowledge Tyndall's alleged misbehaviors. To date, Tyndall has denied any wrongdoing.
What follows is a timeline of events, beginning with Tyndall's hiring. It includes everything that we know about the scandal thus far. It will be updated as we learn more.
USC hires Tyndall out of his medical residency.
Multiple lawyers have told Annenberg Media that some of their clients saw Tyndall in the early 1990s and reported this same type of sexual misconduct. The LA Times reported this as well. The LA Times also reported that medical assistant Anita Thornton said that she complained to a clinic administrator around this time about the photographs Tyndall was taking of his patients. The LAPD reported that their earliest complaint against Tyndall dates back to 1990.
At least three patients submitted letters complaining about Tyndall's inappropriate behavior and remarks, a member of the clinic oversight committee told the LA Times. USC said then-executive director Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, who died in 2016, had "handled patient complaints independently."
Eight chaperones approached their supervisor Cindy Gilbert with their concerns about Tyndall, the LA Times reported. She went to Neinstein as well as Tammie Akiyoshi, the clinical director at the health center.
Neinstein referred Gilbert's complaints to the university's Office of Equity and Diversity (OED). Gretchen Dahlinger Means, the current executive director of OED, said investigators found no evidence of misconduct and no violation of school policy, although Neinstein ordered that Tyndall could not lock the door when he was with patients.
One patient described Tyndall as "creepy" and a staff member recalled overhearing him tell a patient "you are pretty enough to be a model," the LA Times reported.
Neinstein told Tyndall about Gilbert's complaints in the fall. Gilbert, Tyndall and other staff members interviewed by the LA Times said Tyndall was told to keep his office door open when he was with patients.
Cindy Gilbert approached the rape crisis center and told Ekta Kumar, executive director, her and other chaperones' concerns. According to the LA Times, Gilbert told Kumar, "We can't get anyone to act on it." As result, Tyndall was placed on paid leave for nearly one year, the LA Times reported.
According to the LA Times, USC made a secret deal with Tyndall that allowed him to resign with a financial payout. They did not report his behavior to the state medical board at this time.
January: Tyndall was informed by USC that he violated university policy on sexual harassment, the LA Times reported.
May: Ainsley Carry, USC's vice president of student affairs, pressed Tyndall to take the settlement and leave, according to LA Times. One year later, in a letter to USC faculty and staff on May 21, 2018, Provost Michael Quick wrote, "while it is difficult to accept, as settlements never sound appropriate, the reality is, given our size, structure, and due process policies, it is often the most expedient way to remove someone from the university."
June 30: Tyndall resigned. The university did not inform clinic staff about his resignation until October, the LA Times reported.
July 17: The LA Times reported that Dr. Carmen Puliafito, then-dean of the Keck Medical School, had a secret life of drug use, using hard drugs like methamphetamine and others both on and off campus. Immediately following the story's release, USC placed Puliafito on leave.
October 6: The LA Times reported that Dr. Rohit Varma, the newly minted medical school dean, was fired by USC. His dismissal came as The Times was preparing to publish a story, disclosing Varma's inappropriate behavior toward a medical school fellow in 2003.
March 9: After Tyndall requested a reinstatement, USC filed a complaint with the medical board.
May 17: Tammie Akiyoshi, clinical director at the health center, is fired. Dr. William Leavitt, lead physician at Engemann Student Health Center is also fired. Leavitt told the LA Times: "I'm basically the scapegoat… From my perspective, it's a wrongful termination."
May 25: President Max Nikias steps down amid protests from faculty and students. Days earlier, a statement from USC's executive board expressed their `"full confidence" in Nikias.
May 25: The LA Times reported that the state medical board has opened an investigation into Tyndall.
May 21: The first two lawsuits are filed against Tyndall and USC. Six more lawsuits were filed in the days following. Lawsuits have been filed by these firms:
• Taylor and Ring, representing one client. David Ring, a partner of the firm, said 30 more victims will be added to this complaint in early June.
• Manly, Stewart, and Finaldi, representing four clients. Their co-counsel is the Senators Firm.
• Arias, Sanguinetti Wang & Torrijos, a class-action suit with more than a hundred clients. They have filed two suits, one in the state court and another in federal court.
• Oakwood Legal Group, representing one client. They also plan to refile with additional victims in early June.
• Owen, Patterson, and Owen, representing three clients. According to Susan Owen, a partner with the firm, they have a number of other clients who were not named in this suit. They plan to introduce those clients once the case starts moving forward.
• Law Offices of Kevin T. Barnes have filed a class-action suit in state court.
• Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, representing one client.
The firms suing USC and Tyndall allege: sexual battery, gender violence, negligent hiring and retention, fraudulent misrepresentation, concealment, aiding and abetting, constructed fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, sexual abuse and harassment in the educational setting, and false imprisonment.
May 29: LAPD opens a criminal investigation, looking into 52 sexual misconduct complaints against Tyndall. They created a task force for this case.
May 31: Rick Caruso, a real estate developer in Los Angeles, is named the new chair of the university's board of trustees. He replaced John Mork, CEO of the Denver-based Energy Corporation of America. The LA Times reported that Mork had a close relationship with Nikias. In a letter to the USC community, Caruso pledged transparency and promised new checks and balances for university affairs. In his first act as chairman, Caruso announced the LA-based law firm, O'Melveny & Myers, will conduct a "thorough and independent investigation" into Tyndall's alleged sexual misconduct and the "reporting failures" that allowed it to persist.
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