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The University of Southern California has reached a settlement with 80 students who said they were sexually abused by a former school doctor.
The students, nearly all of them LGBTQ, accused Dennis Kelly of sexual battery, harassment, as well as inappropriate remarks during appointments.
Kelly, who worked as a physician at the school’s Student Health Center from 1997 to 2018, used his position of trust and authority as a school doctor to engage in sexual misconduct under the guise of medical care, the students alleged.
He also “disproportionately targeted LGBTQ+ patients,” according to Kellogg & Van Aken, a San Francisco-based civil litigation firm that represented 57 individuals in the case and served as the lead counsel for all plaintiffs who were part of the litigation.
According to the students, the university received complaints about Kelly’s misconduct but failed to properly address the situation, allowing the now-retired doctor to continue to “see and treat vulnerable young students without limitation.”
The case against the disgraced physician began more than three years ago, in February 2019, when six LGBTQ male USC graduates came forward with allegations of inappropriate sexual misconduct against the then-school doctor.
Kelly retired from USC in 2018 and surrendered his medical license two years later.
Since the original filing, 74 additional individuals have also come forward, bringing the total number of claimants to 80.
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According to the Los Angeles Times, four of the plaintiffs are heterosexual, and 76 are LGBTQ. One plaintiff identified as male at the time of the appointment with Kelly, but now identifies as a woman.
“It has been a long three years for our courageous clients who have persevered through intense scrutiny to ensure their voices have been heard,” Kelly Van Aken, a partner at Kellogg & Van Aken, said in a statement.
“It is our hope that by taking these allegations public and speaking out on behalf of dozens of current and former students of USC, institutions entrusted with the care of vulnerable young people are forced to confront and correct the toxic and problematic cultures that allow abuse and misconduct to continue,” she added.
In a joint statement released Thursday, lawyers for the alleged victims, USC and Kelly said that all parties had “reached a global settlement of plaintiffs’ allegations of misconduct,” and that “USC and Dr. Kelly both deny the allegations.”
“All parties have mutually agreed that the details of the settlement will remain confidential,” the statement continued, adding that all the parties hope that this “amicable resolution” could bring closure to the alleged victims.
In March 2021, USC announced that it would pay $842 million to former patients of campus gynecologist George Tyndall. That was in addition to the $215 million the school had already agreed to pay to settle a 2018 federal class-action against him.