Scandal plagued USC, facing civil suits from hundreds former patients who allege they were sexually abused by a gynecologist at a campus health facility over a period of three decades, has hired a Sacramento firm to lobby against legislation that would extend the statute of limitations to sue private universities.
Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross and Leoni LLP was hired by USC on March 1 to lobby the legislature and governors office in opposition of “extending the statute of limitations for actions brought against private universities,” according to documents filed with the California Secretary of States office.
Nielsen Merksamer has previously lobbied for USA Swimming in opposition to legislation that would have extended the window for sexual assault victims to file civil suits. USA Swimming paid the firm $77,627 in 2013 to oppose SB 131 which called for a one-year window for victims that were previously time-barred by statute to file a civil suit against their actual abuser or the employer of the abuser. The bill was passed by the legislature but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.
More than 650 women have filed lawsuits against USC alleging they were sexually abused by Dr. George Tyndall, a longtime gynecologist at the schools student health clinic, and that the university did not take adequate measures to protect them from that abuse. USC agreed to a $215 million settlement in a federal class action suit last October. The settlement agreement which could potentially include 17,000 current and former students still must be approved by the court and the university continues to face potential settlements in the hundreds of millions in other suits.
Under the proposed federal court agreement, USC would pay up to $250,000 to alleged victims of Tyndall. The university would also pay $2,500 to any student treated by Tyndall.
USC still faces lawsuits in Los Angeles Superior Court filed by at least 400 alleged victims. Tyndall is under investigation by the state medical board.
Michigan State last year reached a $500 million settlement with the victims of longtime U.S. Olympic and USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, who was also on the the universitys sports medicine staff. Under terms of the agreement $425 million will be paid to 332 known survivors of Nassars sexual abuse. An additional $75 million will be placed in a trust fund for future claimants alleging sexual abuse by Nassar.
“Universities routinely contract with lobbying firms to assist with policy or legislative matters, USC said in a statement..
Nielsen Merksamer is headed by Vigo “Chip” Nielsen, a former campaign manager for Pete Wilsons U.S. Senate and governor races, and Steven A. Merksamer, a former chief of staff for Gov. George Deukmejian and deputy attorney general.
USC paid Mercury Public Affairs $240,000 for lobbying in 2017 and 2018, according to filings. Mercury lobbied on behalf of the university on “Cal Grant A and other financial aid, health care, student athletes, Title IX, Human Resource and employment requirements.” The university had $525,550 in lobbying related expenses in 2017 and 2018.
USA Gymnastics has spent $16,998 on lobbying in California since January 2017. The organization is facing dozens of civil suits in state courts in which former gymnasts allege they were sexually abused by Nassar and that the national governing body, former national team directors Bela and Martha KaroRead More – Source