A settlement involving sexual abuse claims is likely to be met with mixed reactions. First, it means that survivors have succeeded in holding their abusers legally accountable and received some sort of justice. But it also underscores the fact that a person and/or organization still got away with years – sometimes decades – of egregious behavior before they had to face responsibility. The recently announced settlement with the University of Southern California over sex abuse claims against former university gynecologist George Tyndall feels that way.
The $852 million settlement, which comprises two settlements on behalf of a total of 710 plaintiffs, is likely the largest for sex abuse survivors in history, exceeding the amount Michigan State University paid in 2018 for claims against former sports doctor Larry Nassar. Combined with a federal class action and several other private settlements, the total amount USC will pay is over $1.1 billion.
It makes sense to wonder – when there are hundreds of plaintiffs, each with their own experience with abuse by Tyndall, how a settlement this large can stay organized. The USC litigation already has many moving parts, and even more complexities arise once settlement talks begin. The smartest move attorneys can make to organize settlement in a large litigation is to use a qualified settlement fund. This type of trust accepts the defendant’s payment of the agreed-upon settlement but then holds onto the money, giving the plaintiffs’ side extra time to organize and plan for each survivor’s portion of the settlement. Individual survivors can work with a settlement expert to review investment options, trusts, and other tools to help them get the most out of settlement long-term. Attorneys can assess whether they would like to defer their fees and get the resulting tax benefits. There is no pressure to hurry up and make a decision; each individual survivor and attorney can take their own time to decide and control what’s right for them.
Settlement planning is a critical next step for those pursuing justice for sexual abuse. They have already made the difficult decision to come forward and speak out against their abuser, not to mention facing lengthy litigation afterward. After coming that far, speaking with an expert planner is a logical next step that will ensure the monetary recovery benefits each survivor in the best way possible.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).