U. of Michigan settlement latest in school sex abuse payouts
University of Michigan sports doctor Robert Anderson is the latest multimillion-dollar settlement.
A financial payout for more than 1,000 people — mostly men — who say they were sexually assaulted by former University of Michigan sports doctor Robert Anderson is the latest multimillion-dollar settlement involving schools faced with sexual misconduct scandals.
The $490 million settlement announced Wednesday by the Ann Arbor school is just $10 million shy of the $500 million Michigan State University agreed in 2018 to pay to sexual assault victims of its own sport doctor, Larry Nassar.
— Michigan State University’s agreement was to settle claims of more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Nassar, who also was a doctor for USA Gymnastics. The school was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints about Nassar, some as far back as the 1990s, but had insisted that no one covered up assaults. Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise of treatment and was caught with child pornography. He is serving three prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.
— The University of Southern California agreed in 2021 to an $852 million settlement with more than 700 women who accused longtime campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall of sexual abuse. The settlement is believed to be a record amount for such a lawsuit. When combined with an earlier settlement of a separate class-action suit, USC agreed to pay out more than $1 billion for claims against Tyndall, who worked at the school for nearly three decades and faces 35 criminal counts of alleged sexual misconduct. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.
— Penn State University paid out more than $100 million to more than 40 people who said they were sexually abused by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence for sexual abuse of boys, including attacks that occurred in campus facilities.
— In July 2021, a federal judge approved a $73 million settlement in a 2019 class-action lawsuit that alleged some 6,000 women were sexually abused by former University of California, Los Angeles, gynecologist Dr. James Heaps. The 2019 suit involved allegations that from 1983 to 2018, Heaps groped women, simulated intercourse with an ultrasound probe or made inappropriate comments during examinations. The university said it began investigating Heaps in December 2017. He retired in 2018 when the university declined to renew his contract. Heaps faces 21 criminal charges of sexual abuse offenses involving seven women. He has denied wrongdoing.
— Ohio State University agreed to more than $46 million in settlements for more than 185 people who alleged sexual abuse from team doctor Richard Strauss. About 400 men sued the university over its alleged failure to stop Strauss during his two-decade tenure, despite students raising concerns with various school officials as far back as the late 1970s. Many say they were groped during exams at campus athletic facilities, an off-campus men’s clinic or Strauss’ home. Strauss died in 2005. No one has publicly defended him since an ex-wrestler first brought the allegations to light several years ago.
— Baylor University in Texas settled a federal Title IX lawsuit in 2018 that was brought by a former volleyball player who alleged that she was drugged and gang raped by at least four football players in 2012. Terms of the settlement with the woman, identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, were not disclosed. Her lawsuit contained explicit details of the rape that may have involved as many as eight players.
— Dartmouth College in New Hampshire announced in 2019 that it had settled a federal lawsuit with nine women who sued the Ivy League school over allegations that it ignored years of harassment and assault by former psychology department professors. The settlement included $14 million for current and former students who can prove they suffered abuse and can meet other conditions defined in the class action lawsuit, as well as several initiatives by the college “to rectify current problems and prevent future issues.” The women, who were Dartmouth graduates or students, alleged that three professors harassed and touched women inappropriately.
Other universities have reached settlements of smaller amounts, while some lawsuits have been dismissed by judges and others continue to go through the courts:
— In 2016, the University of Tennessee announced it was paying $2.48 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by eight women who said the school had violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes.
— A judge in 2019 dismissed a lawsuit brought by two women who alleged that Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, refused to investigate complaints that they were raped in off-campus fraternity houses. The women permanently dismissed their federal Title IX lawsuits against the university after meeting for mediation. During the litigation, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education weighed in, saying in a brief that the university’s policy to not investigate complaints of student-on-student rape when the attacks occur off-campus is wrong.
— A federal class action lawsuit filed last summer claims Brown University in Rhode Island systematically and repeatedly failed to protect women from rape and other sexual misconduct. The lawsuit was filed by four current and former female students. The suit alleges the Ivy League school actively prevented the reporting of incidents of sexual violence and perpetuated a culture of silence on campus. A school spokeswoman said Brown has taken a “strategic and sustained approach” to confronting sexual misconduct on campus.
— The University of Minnesota, USA Hockey and the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois are defendants in a federal lawsuit filed last May by former players who allege they were sexually abused during the 1980s by a college and youth coach, Thomas “Chico” Adrahtas, who is also a defendant in the suit. Many of the alleged victims, all male, were minors at the time. Adrahtas coached amateur teams in the Chicago area and moved to the college ranks for the 1984-85 season as an assistant at Minnesota. He resigned as the head coach at Robert Morris University in Chicago in 2018 after an investigation into his alleged abuse. The University of Minnesota said it has taken steps to ensure allegations of misconduct are promptly reported and thoroughly investigated, WBBM-TV reported.