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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

University of Michigan Reaches $490 Million Settlement in Sexual Assault Case

Mike Householder and Larry Lage | Associated Press

On Wednesday, the University of Michigan announced a $490 million settlement for more than 1,000 people who said they were sexually assaulted by a former sports doctor during his nearly 40-year career at the school.

The university said the mediation led to an agreement whereby 1,050 people would participate in a financial settlement, the latest of several large payouts made by US universities following allegations of repeated sexual harassment by employees.

Individuals and their attorneys will determine how to split the $460 million without the involvement of the university, the school said in a statement. An additional $30 million will be reserved for future claims.

“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Jordan Acker, chairman of the University of Michigan Board of Trustees. “At the same time, the work begun two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”

Lawyer Parker Stinar said the settlement was reached on Tuesday evening. The university has mediated numerous lawsuits, mostly men, who allege that Dr. Robert Anderson sexually abused them during routine medical examinations.

“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 silenced,” said Stinar, who represents about 200 victims.

Thad DeLuca, the whistleblower whose letter to Michigan’s athletic director Ward Manuel sparked an investigation into Anderson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he doesn’t find joy in the deal and fears it will leave deeper issues unaddressed.

“The settlement will be sprucing things up so Michigan can go back to the glossy M block and look great for the world,” DeLuca said, referring to the university’s logo. “But the situation on campus is terrible.”

Anderson worked at the university from 1966 until his retirement in 2003, was director of the university’s health service and physician for several sports teams, including football. A number of football players and other athletes accused Anderson, who died in 2008, of sexually assaulting them.

A report from a firm hired by the school said staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson in his 37-year career. The university is regularly ranked among the best public universities in the United States.

The deal came about two weeks after a state senator announced a new bipartisan law that would retroactively give prosecutors a 30-day window to sue the school for damages regardless of the statutory deadline and bar the university from using state immunity protection. The bills, due to be introduced this week, were promoted as a way to give victims more reassurance and increase pressure on the school to make a decision.

Earlier this week, two men who say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson also expressed hope that a change in leadership following the dismissal of university president Mark Schlissel over the weekend would allow the school to be more accountable to victims of abuse.

Keith Morey and Robert Stone told reporters Tuesday that the Ann Arbor school is ripe for a culture change as its board searches for a permanent replacement for Schlissel, who was fired on Saturday over an alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee.”

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