University of Michigan reaches $490 million settlement with sex abuse accusers

The University of Michigan has agreed to pay $490 million in damages to more than 1,000 mostly male former students who said they were sexually abused by sports physician Robert Anderson, their families confirmed on Wednesday. lawyers.

The announcement came after 15 months of mediation and appears to close the book on one of the country’s biggest sex abuse scandals, which has involved multiple generations of victims dating back to the 1960s.

The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with hundreds of people who say they were sexually assaulted by Dr. Robert E. Anderson, the school’s former sports physician.Robert Kalmbach/University of Michigan via AP

“It has been a long and difficult journey and I believe this settlement will bring justice and healing to the many brave men and women who have refused to be silent,” said Parker Stinar of the law firm Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane based in Denver. , which represents dozens of Anderson’s accusers.

Stinar said some 1,050 Anderson “survivors” will split the $490 million in settlement money, meaning each accuser will receive an average of about $438,000.

Thirty million dollars of this money will be set aside for all future accusers.

Rick Fitzgerald, associate vice president for public affairs at the University of Michigan, confirmed a settlement.

“We hope this settlement will start the healing process for survivors,” Jordan Acker, chairman of the Board of Regents, said in a press release first obtained by the school newspaper, The Michigan Daily. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman agreed that the agreement, which has yet to be signed by the board of trustees and approved by 98% of applicants, is the right thing to do.

“This agreement is a critical step among many endeavors the university has taken to improve survivor support and more effectively prevent and address misconduct,” she said.

The settlement was reached with the assistance of court-appointed mediator Robert F. Riley and overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Anderson, who retired in 2003 and died five years later, was a former director of the University Health Service who also served as the top doctor for Michigan football teams led by coaches Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr.

Schembechler died in 2006. His son, Matt, alleged that in 1969 Anderson molested him when he was 10 and his father refused to believe him. He said his mother, Millie, tried to have Anderson fired but Schembechler reinstated him.

The investigation was sparked by a former wrestler whistleblower named Tad DeLuca.

DeLuca said that in 1975 he wrote a nine-page letter to his coach, Bill Johannesen, and then athletic director, Don Canham, and described what Anderson had repeatedly done to him under cover medical examinations.

“Something is wrong with Dr. Anderson,” DeLuca wrote in the letter. “No matter what you go there for, he always knocks you out of your drawers.”

Anderson, DeLuca said, was widely known as “Dr. Ditch your Anderson drawers.

But Johannesen, DeLuca said, humiliated him for speaking out about Anderson by reading his letter out loud to the rest of the team before he was subsequently kicked off the team and lost his scholarship.

“Those few minutes in front of my friends and teammates, the coach stripped away everything I had ever been,” DeLuca later told reporters in February 2020.

Johannesen, who coached the Michigan wrestling team in the 1970s, previously told The Associated Press in a statement that no one had ever directly reported abuse to him from Anderson. Canham died in 2005.

Anderson, DeLuca said, was widely known as “Dr. Ditch your Anderson drawers.

DeLuca, a married father of three and retired teacher who lives in northern Michigan, refused to give up.

Inspired by female gymnasts at Michigan State University who said they were abused by sports physician Larry Nassar, DeLuca contacted authorities again.

And in 2018, police in Washtenaw County, Michigan launched an investigation into Anderson based on a second letter written by DeLuca.

Steven Hiller, the county’s deputy chief prosecutor, said no charges could be filed because Anderson was dead and none of the charges fell within the state’s six-year statute of limitations. .

Nonetheless, the police investigation noted that Michigan staff members were “aware of the rumors and allegations of misconduct” by Anderson.

In 2020, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel issued an apology on behalf of the university to anyone hurt by Anderson. And a year later, a law firm hired by the university to conduct an independent investigation concluded that U of M officials knew Anderson was abusing students and could have arrested him, but did not. have not done.

The Anderson case echoed the Dr. Richard Strauss scandal at Ohio State University, where 350 men accused the university of failing to protect them from a predatory doctor.

About Cedric Lloyd

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