What’s the problem?
The charges against UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Mason Heaps made headlines after he surrendered to law enforcement; he later pleaded not guilty in a Los Angeles courtroom.
The first complaints about Heaps were filed in 2017; a year later, the university placed him on leave. Officials gave no reason for Mason’s departure until this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. That decision is now under review by UCLA staff.
"We are deeply sorry for this," said UCLA Health spokeswoman Rhonda Curry. "We know we could have done better. We want and need to hear from other possible patients."
News of Heaps’ arrest and pending charges follow a massive scandal at another prestigious Los Angeles university, USC, where former on-campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall has been slapped with more than 400 sexual assault lawsuits filed by former patients claiming abuse over the course of his 3-decade career at the institution. Tyndall has categorically denied all the allegations, and the investigation is ongoing.
UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block and Vice Chancellor John Mazziotta apologized Monday in a joint statement, vowing to review how sexual assault complaints against staff are handled in the future.
“Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable and represents an inexcusable breach of the physician-patient relationship,” the chancellors said. “We are deeply sorry that a former UCLA physician violated our policies and standards, our trust and the trust of his patients.”
Heaps worked part-time at the UCLA student health center from approximately 1983 to 2010, and then was re-hired by the university in 2014, where he held medical staff privileges at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center until 2018, officials said.
UCLA launched an internal investigation in 2017 after receiving a patient complaint regarding inappropriate comments and medically unnecessary touching. The probe uncovered at least 2 other complaints about Heaps filed by student patients, one in 2014 and another in 2015. Neither of those complaints is included in the current criminal case.
Alleged Victim of Accused UCLA Gynecologist Speaks Out: CBS Los Angeles Video
UCLA Sexual Assault Victims Demand New Investigation
The UCLA Board of Regents on Thursday heard from former patients of Dr. James Heaps who claim the gynecologist sexually abused them, according to KFI AM 640. Two of the accusers said Heaps 'inappropriately touched' them during exams, with another claiming that he specifically fondled her buttocks and breasts. The women have demanded an independent investigation into what UCLA knew about Heaps' behavior, and what the university did about it, before he retired from practice in 2018.
Class Action Filed Against UCLA Gynecologist Accused of Sexual Assault
A federal class action lawsuit was filed last Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California on behalf of 2 women accused former UCLA campus gynecologist Dr. James Heaps of sexually assaulting the plaintiffs and made sexually inappropriate comments during their appointments, according to CBS News. To date, at least 130 former patients have reached out to UCLA with "concerns about their interactions" with Heaps, and another 161 former patients expressed support for the doctor. The suit now needs a judge's permission to move forward as a class action case, which could potentially help women who were victimized but cannot file their own, separate lawsuits.
Court Suspends Heaps' Medical License Pending Sexual Assault Case
The Los Angeles Superior Court has suspended former UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist James Heaps’ medical license for at least the duration of the criminal sexual abuse case against him, according to the Daily Bruin. Heaps is currently facing 2 counts of sexual battery and 1 count of sexual exploitation by a physician in a criminal case involving a pair of former patients he treated in 2017 and 2018. At least 10 civil suits accusing Heaps of sexual assault have been filed since the criminal suit was entered, 3 of which were filed this week. Heaps denies all charges.
UCLA Knew About Gynecologist Sexual Assault Complaints in 2014, Records Show
As far back as 2014, UCLA Medical Center was receiving complaints about Dr. James Mason Heaps, but it took officials another 4 years and numerous additional complaints from the gynecologist's patients to actually fire him, university records obtained by the LA Times show.
The woman who filed the 2014 complaint stated that she was “completely shocked and embarrassed” by Heaps' misconduct, which she claims involved inappropriate sexual touching and comments during a medical consultation.
A month after filing the complaint, a UCLA Health manager told the woman that the executive chair and vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology had “thoroughly reviewed and investigated” the allegations, but never told her the outcome, only that the protocol was “confidential and remains protected information.”
This response would constitute a violation of the University of California's sexual misconduct policies for 2013, which stipulated that “the complainant shall be informed if there were findings made that the Policy was or was not violated and of actions taken to resolve the complaint, if any.”
These actions call into question whether UCLA, a university that touts itself a national leader in responding to accusations of sexual misconduct, followed official guidelines and did everything it could to protect the student body in the case against Heaps.
9 More Women File Suit Against UCLA Gynecologist
2 more lawsuits have been filed against Dr. James Mason Heaps on behalf of 9 former patients who allege that he sexually assaulted them repeatedly under the guise of his normal gynecological duties, according to MyNewsLA.
Both lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. 1 was brought on behalf of 3 women who went to UCLA at the time of the alleged assaults, and the other on behalf of 6 women who were non-student patients of Heaps'.
The alleged crimes detailed in the complaints took place from 1989 to 2017, and both involve similar claims that Heaps abused them by groping and fondling their breasts and inappropriately touching their private parts during examinations. UCLA Health issued a statement referring to the allegations as “very disturbing.”
UCLA Gynecologist Sexual Assault Lawsuit Nets Plaintiff $3.5 Million
A woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by former UCLA on-campus gynecologist Dr. James M. Heaps has been awarded $2.25 million in a settlement finalized last month, according to the LA Times. The allegations stemmed from a February 2018 incident in which plaintiff was a patient of Dr. Heaps at UCLA, and she and another woman were sexually battered and exploited. Heaps has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has vowed to fight all charges against him.
UCLA's Lack of Transparency re: Gynecologist Allegations Endangers School Community, Editorial Says
At least 22 more women have come forward to press charges of sexual abuse on UCLA gynecologist James Mason Heaps, according to the Daily Bruin. The new plaintiffs join several others who filed a sexual assault suit on June 10, accusing Heaps of crimes which allegedly took place in 2017 and 2018 during the course of his routine medical activities, according to an editorial published Monday by the Daily Bruin Editorial Board.
"Communication in these cases is more than a formality - what the university does or doesn't say directly affects the well-being of individuals on campus," the editorial said.
Cancer Patient Sues UCLA, Gynecologist for Sexual Assault
A cancer patient filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against UCLA and Dr. James Heaps, accusing the former gynecologist of repeated sexual assault which took place over a period of 2 years, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 44-year-old was in the fight of her life against mesothelioma, a cancer that starts in the lining of the lungs, when she was referred to Dr. Heaps. As if fighting a disease that could very well kill her wasn't enough, the woman claims that Heaps improperly touched her clitoris, fondled her breasts, and squeezed her nipples -- all under the guise of routine medical care.
A UCLA Health spokesperson said “the allegations against Dr. Heaps contained in the lawsuit are very disturbing,” but failed to elaborate. Last week, Heaps pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of sexual battery during his treatment of 2 patients at UCLA.
UCLA Failed to Warn About Gynecologist Accused of Sexual Assault
Despite numerous complaints from patients about former UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Mason Heaps, university officials allegedly took no action before announcing his retirement last June, and kept the allegations under wraps until criminal charges were filed earlier this week. UCLA, which touts itself as a national leader in establishing strong sexual misconduct policies, came under fire on Monday after criminal charges were filed against Heaps.
In June 2017, a student at UCLA had been experiencing chronic pelvic pain, so she made an appointment to see Dr. Heaps. The woman claims that during the appointment, the doctor improperly touched her genitals, fondled her breast and buttock, and made unwanted sexual advances toward her. She reported the incident to staff later that year.
Once notified, staff had the option of immediately removing Heaps from campus or restricting his practice to protect the public while investigating the allegations. They could also have warned the campus community — which federal law requires if university officials decide the accused is an imminent safety threat. They could have encouraged other potential victims to step forward.
Despite the considerable discretion UCLA officials had regarding the allegations, they decided instead to sit on their hands until announcing Heaps’ retirement last June. He strongly denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
What Did UCLA Know?
UCLA staff had been made aware of the complaints about Heaps more than a year before charges were filed, and the university only made the announcement regarding his complaints after the fact, according to the Bruin Editorial Board. This negligence left the campus community and administrators clueless as to these developments, and powerless to protect themselves against an invisible threat.
"Beyond the clear lack of transparency, UCLA failed to implement adequate measures to protect patients, such as removing Heaps from campus while he was under investigation, which UC policy would have allowed," the board said.
Can I File a Class Action?
Although Schmidt & Clark, LLP, is a nationally recognized class action firm, we have decided against this type of litigation when it comes to UCLA sexual assault lawsuits. Our lawyers feel that if there is a successful resolution to these cases, individual suits, not class actions will be the best way to get maximum payouts to our clients. If you were harmed by UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Mason Heaps, we know you’ve suffered emotionally and economically, and want to work with you personally to obtain the maximum compensation for the damages caused by your injuries. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.
Do I Have a UCLA Gynecologist Lawsuit?
The Sexual Abuse Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in UCLA gynecologist lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new sexual assault cases in all 50 states.
Again, if you or a loved one believe you have been subjected to sexual assault, abuse, or harassment by Dr. James Mason Heaps or any other UCLA employee, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a sexual abuse suit and our lawyers can help.