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The University of Southern California has reached a record $852 million settlement with more than 700 women who accused a former gynecologist on campus of sexually abusing them as patients and the prestigious school of trying to cover it up, attorneys said on Thursday.
The law firm representing many of the women in the case said the payout agreed to by USC and the plaintiffs marked the largest sexual abuse settlement with a university and the biggest personal injury payout by any college or university in US history.
The deal, resolving lawsuits brought by 710 women in California state court, stems from allegations against George Tyndall, who practised at USC for nearly 30 years before the private, Los Angeles-based university suspended him in 2016, then allowed him to quietly retire without immediately reporting him to the state medical board.
A separate $215 million settlement of a federal class-action case in 2018 and a more recent $50 million cluster of individual state court settlements brings the total payout USC has agreed to pay in the Tyndall scandal to $1.1 billion.
No further civil claims are outstanding.
Tyndall, who has denied wrongdoing, lost his medical license and has been charged with sexually assaulting 21 patients under the guise of gynecological treatment or exams. He has pleaded not guilty to 35 felony counts and remains free on bail. No trial date has been set.
His civil defence lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
Tyndall was technically a party to the USC settlement but lacks any funds to contribute, Vince Finaldi, a lead plaintiffs lawyer and negotiator of the deal, told Reuters.
The former physician, now in his 70s, was deposed for the civil litigation but invoked his Fifth Amendment right under the US constitution to avoid self-incrimination, Mr Finaldi said.
The flood of lawsuits brought by former patients against Tyndall and USC accused the university of negligence and complicity, asserting school officials were aware of his misconduct for years but kept him in a position to continue preying on students placed in his care.
“The enormous size of this settlement speaks to the immense harm done to our clients and the culpability of USC,” plaintiffs attorney John Manley said in a statement. “It is a direct result of a billionaire-dominated Board of Trustees that placed fundraising, prestige and the ‘USC Brand’ above the safety of vulnerable female students.”
Widespread faculty and student outrage over the university’s handling of the matter after allegations against Tyndall surfaced in media accounts in 2018 led then-USC president CL Max Nikias to resign.
The scandal even prompted the Chinese government to voice “deep concern” over published reports that many of the alleged victims were students from China.
The USC Board of Trustees ratified Thursday’s settlement, which the university said was reached with assistance from a private mediator and a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
“I’m deeply sorry for the pain experienced by these valued members of the USC community,” USC’s current president, Carol Folt, said in a statement. “We appreciate the courage of all who came forward and hope this much-needed resolution provides some relief to the women abused by George Tyndall.”
University officials have previously acknowledged failing to act on a number of complaints made against Tyndall between 2000 and 2014 but denied a deliberate cover-up.
Trustees Chair Rick Caruso, named to head the board after the scandal came to light, conceded on Thursday that the university “fell short by not doing everything it could to protect those who matter to us most – our students.”
Individual payouts in the latest settlement would likely range from mid-six-figure sums to millions of dollars, Mr Finaldi said.
The USC settlement far exceeds the $500 million payout agreed to by Michigan State University to resolve civil claims stemming from allegations of serial sexual abuse leveled against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor on the school’s staff.
Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison in a pair of 2018 trials after more than 350 women testified of abuse at his hands.
By comparison, the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church paid out $660 million in 2007 to 508 victims of sex abuse by multiple members of the clergy. – Reuters
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.
She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.
“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”
Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.
However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.
“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”
“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.
“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”
“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”
Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.
She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.
She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.
Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.
She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.
Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.
She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.
Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows
The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.
A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.
The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.
A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.
The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.
Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.
The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.
Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.
Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.
For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.
Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.
The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.
The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.
The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.
The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.
There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.
Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.
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