Identical twin sisters have been accused of cheating on a test. A jury awarded them $1.5 million.
- December 9, 2022
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Identical twin sisters accused of cheating on their medical school finals have won a defamation lawsuit against the Medical University of South Carolina.
Twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham were accused of “academic dishonesty” in May 2016 after exam inspectors reviewed the results of an exam where their performance was found to be remarkably similar. The sisters’ identical answers to 296 of 307 questions, including 54 incorrect answers, set alarm bells ringing for university officials, who launched an investigation into the twins’ performance.
An “honor council” at the school claimed the couple “signalled and passed notes to each other,” court documents show, eventually ruling they had cheated on the exam.
“It was an eight-hour exam during which we exhibited normal testing behavior,” Kayla Bingham told CBS MoneyWatch.
The Binghams successfully appealed the decision and filed a lawsuit against the university. They argued that they had behaved and performed similarly academically and in athletics for years. After a four-day trial in November, a South Carolina jury found the school defamed the sisters and awarded them damages totaling $1.5 million.
Kayla (left) and Kellie Bingham now work for the same South Carolina law firm. Rodney Wahl
The Binghams’ legal case was based on the theory that it is common for identical twins to perform similarly on tests because of their genetic profile. Nancy Segal, who directs the Twin Studies Center at California State University at Fullerton and testified in the case, said numerous studies have shown that identical twins often score similarly on a range of cognitive tests.
“There’s a wealth of psychological research showing that identical twins score very similarly on tests of intelligence, information processing, and reaction speed, and I wasn’t at all surprised that they did very similar tests,” says Segal, a psychologist, told CBS MoneyWatch.
“When identical twins behave very differently, that gets our attention,” she added. “If they do the same, that agrees very well with the literature. I would have been surprised if they hadn’t cut it straight away.”
In their lawsuit, the Binghams said the cheating allegations led to psychological distress, including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It was a very hostile environment. People we knew, sat next to, and studied with for two years didn’t want to speak to us,” Kellie Bingham told CBS MoneyWatch. “They knew our work ethic and our study habits, but refused to hear our side of the story. People we trusted turned their backs on us completely.”
The university’s accusation and subsequent events also disrupted the Binghams’ plans to become doctors. The two now work as government affairs consultants at the same South Carolina law firm.
“We understand that once it becomes known, even if it is incorrect, it will damage your reputation as a person. So we completely switched lanes,” Kayla said, adding that she “wanted to fight back because I was wronged.”