Saturday, October 24

Heaps faces new civil suits for sexual abuse, plaintiffs include former students

Former UCLA doctor James Heaps faces two more civil lawsuits from nine women alleging abuse. One suit was filed on behalf of three women who were UCLA students at the time of the alleged incidents. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Former UCLA doctor James Heaps is facing a growing number of civil suits for alleged sexual abuse.

Two more civil lawsuits from nine women alleging sexual abuse by Heaps were filed Tuesday, according to a press release from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, the law firm representing the women. This brings the total number of civil suits against Heaps up to at least five. Three of the nine women were UCLA students at the time of the alleged incidents, according to court documents.

Heaps worked at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from 2014 to 2018 as an obstetrician-gynecologist and held medical staff privileges there for about 30 years. Prior to his employment at the medical center, he worked at what is now the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center as a part-time doctor from 1983 to 2010.

The alleged incidents in the court documents range from 1989 until as recently as 2017. The UCLA Title IX Office received a complaint against Heaps in 2017, and UCLA terminated his employment in 2018. During an investigation, the Title IX Office was made aware of complaints against him in 2014 and 2015.

At least four women claim Heaps assaulted them after UCLA opened its Title IX investigation in 2017, according to an attorney from the firm representing the women who filed Tuesday and 50 others who have come forward.

The women in the lawsuits allege that Heaps sexually abused and assaulted them under the pretense of medical examination while they were patients of his, according to the press release.

Tracy Green, Heaps’ lawyer, said Heaps continues to deny all allegations, including the ones in the most recent lawsuits filed, and said Heaps conducted procedures strictly for medical reasons.

“They’re accusations and anyone can file a lawsuit, but no one should assume they’re true,” Green said.

She also said she has spoken with a number of Heaps’ former coworkers and patients who have been willing to vouch for his character.

“I think for Dr. Heaps, you know, he’s devastated by these false accusations,” Green said. “He really did give his career and was a very committed doctor, and stands by the work that he did, and how he treated patients. It’s just completely out of character.”

Jane Reilley, the attorney representing the women in civil court, said Heaps used his position to take advantage of students and cancer patients lacking a clear understanding of medical exam procedures.

“I’m talking about women who are subjected to these prolonged groping breast exams, where he’s telling them they’re beautiful and making comments about their bodies,” she said. “That’s not the standard of care.”

The University of California paid approximately $3.5 million in settlements earlier this year regarding allegations against Heaps, although Heaps denies any wrongdoing and disagrees with the UC’s decision to settle.

Heaps is currently facing criminal charges for two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual exploitation by a physician.

Heaps has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

He is scheduled to appear in court in regards to the criminal charges on July 30.

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Chavez-Martinez is the Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a third-year English and Economics student at UCLA.

News Editor

Gray is the 2019-2020 News editor of the Daily Bruin. He was previously an assistant News editor and a reporter for the city and crime beat. He is also a third-year political science student at UCLA.

Senior staff

Nucci was the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Features & Student Life beat. She was previously a contributor for the Campus Politics beat from 2018-2019 and Copy staff from 2017-2019.

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