Woman Sues UCLA for Sexual Assault at Hands of Staff OBGYN
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is the latest institution to have to defend itself after it allegedly allowed medical patients to be sexually assaulted on campus, not by other students, but by a UCLA OBGYN. Dr. James Heaps plead not guilty to two charges of sexual battery and one count of sexual exploitation of a patient on Monday in Los Angeles. A civil complaint is now being filed against UCLA alleging, among other things, that UCLA allowed Heaps to continue to treat patients even though Heap had a history of sexual misconduct claims filed against him by former patients.
Heaps worked out of Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center from 1988 to 2018 and UCLA Student Health from 1983 to 2010. Heaps also served as a professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. For three decades, under the supervision of UCLA, Heaps examined and treated patients even after multiple complaints were filed and investigated against him. For instance while Heaps practice was being acquired by the UC Regents in 2014, the California Medical Board investigated him for acting in a “medically inappropriate and sexual manner during a patient examination.” The complaint claims that no corrective action was taken against him at that time.
Then in 2015, a review of Heaps was posted on Yelp where a young woman alleged that in 2008, Heaps had groped her breast and made inappropriate comments during an examination. The woman was a student at the time of the incident and said, “7 years later later, I still feel violated.”
One of the victims in the criminal case was allegedly assaulted in 2017 by Heaps. The woman claimed Heaps improperly manipulated her genital piercing and that he placed his fingers in her vagina in an inappropriate manner.
That victim has already settled her claim against UCLA for an undisclosed amount and now the second victim at the center of the criminal case is filing a claim against the University as well. The plaintiff, Jane Doe, as she is referred to in the complaint, claims that in June 2017 she visited Heaps to have an IUD implanted. She stated that she was accompanied by her husband and child at that appointment and that Heaps made her feel comfortable due to his confidence and professionalism.
Five days later, after complications with the device, she revisited Heaps to have the IUD removed. She went to the appointment by herself and claims that during the removal Heaps engaged in “grossly inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.” Allegedly, heaps touched her genitals in a sexual manner and made inappropriate sexual comments. Specifically, during the removal, Heaps asked the plaintiff if she was experiencing pain in her breast or buttocks. She replied “no” but Heaps, undeterred, then groped her breast and buttocks.
The plaintiff reported the abuse to her doctor and then the next year, still processing the trauma, she was contacted by the Human Resources department of UCLA Health. They questioned her about the misconduct and said they would be in contact again to discuss the investigation.
She was never contacted again by UCLA regarding the investigation. The next time she heard from UCLA Health was June 19, 2018 when she received a mass mailed letter from Dr. Deborah Krakow, Chair of the UCLA Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA’s School of Medicine who wrote “[i]t is with mixed emotion that I announce the retirement of Dr. James Heaps.” UCLA Health claims they terminated Heaps and he himself announced his retirement.
The lawsuit accuses UCLA of wholly failing to protect the plaintiff and other vulnerable women from Heaps. Specifically, the complaint claims that UCLA did not institute even basic protections to prevent sexual abuse of patients such as having independent trained chaperones during examinations, that they did not properly train employees on how to intervene if inappropriate conduct occurred, and that after multiple reports of abuse they did not take corrective measures which exposed possibly hundreds of other patients to abuse.
The complaint further speculates that UCLA had reason to cover up Heaps’ misconduct due to his somewhat celebrity status. Heaps had been considered OBGYN “to the stars” in Hollywood Reporter’s list of Best Doctors in Los Angeles in 2015. He was also one of its highest paid employees at the university with an annual salary of $1,182,265.
This suit comes months after the University of Southern California’s Medical School was stripped of its national accreditation following the allegations by almost 500 women who accused George Tyndall, M.D., the campus’ former gynecologist, of sexual harassment and abuse.
The #metoo movement has forced a reckoning not just with abusers but also the institutions that protect and enable them. Universities across the country are now facing the consequences of turning a blind eye to sexual abuses on their watch. The schools and institutions should be aggressively protecting against abuses, particularly from medical staff since medical personnel are treating young women at their most vulnerable, especially OBGYNs. Unfortunately, it seems people like Darren Kavinoky, the attorney representing the plaintiff, and the brave women who stand up to tell their stories must be the ones to force the issue. Kavinoky says "As offensive as the allegations against Dr. Heaps are, it’s just as troublesome that UCLA knew or certainly should have known in the face of the evidence that abuses were happening, and did nothing to protect women when they were most vulnerable. We won’t stand for it."
Kavinoky Law Firm is seeking information from other potential victims of Heaps. If you are a former patient who has suffered abuse from Dr. Heaps at UCLA, Kavinoky Law Firm wants to hear from you. You can read the full complaint against UCLA and tell your story to Darren Kavinoky at www.uclasexualassault.com.