On January 18, 2022, parties reached a $490 million settlement in the University of Michigan sexual abuse litigation. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The plaintiffs’ claims stem from the allegations of abuse against university doctor Robert Anderson. Anderson worked at the University of Michigan for 35 years, from 1968-2003. He died in 2008. Just over a thousand claimants, including former athletes and students, filed suit against the university alleging the institution failed to act when notified of Anderson’s conduct.
Of the $490 million settlement, $460 million of the funds will be available for the nearly 1050 claimants. The remaining $30 million will be reserved for future claimants who have until July 31st, 2023 to participate in the settlement. The $490 million will be paid from university reserves and insurance proceeds. The university spokesman specified that certain funds, like student tuition and state appropriation receipts, will be excluded from contributing to the settlement monies. The claimants and their attorneys will be responsible for allocating the settlement dollars to claimants.
Despite knowledge of Anderson’s conduct, it was not until 2018 when Tad Deluca, a former University of Michigan wrestler from the 1970s wrote a letter to Michigan’s Athletic Director, Warde Manual, describing his abuse from Anderson. This prompted a criminal investigation. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor ultimately decide to not pursue prosecution, citing Anderson’s 2008 death. However, these events led to the litigation and an independent investigation commissioned by the university. That investigation found that senior administrators at the university were notified about Anderson’s conduct as early as 1978 and failed to take action. The investigation also found that claimants accounts were consistent and showed a “pervasive, decades-long, destructive pattern of sexual misconduct.”
Robert Riley of Riley & Hurley PC was the mediator in the court-appointed mediation. 98% of the claimants and the Board of Regents must approve the agreement.
Since 2018, this is the third major settlement against universities over alleged abuse by university doctors. This settlement is notable from previous settlements for the large number of victims and the high percentage of male survivors. A similar suit against University of Southern California was brought by 700 claimants and settled for $852 million in 2021. The suit against Michigan State University (“MSU”) was brought by 300 claimants and settled for $500 million in 2018. The doctor at the center of the MSU claims was also the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. In December of 2021, a $380 million settlement was reached with USA Gymnastics for abuse claims against the team doctor.
The settlement was negotiated for the claimants by Parker G. Stinar of Wahlberg Woodruff Nimmo & Sloane LLP, Mike Cox of the Mike Cox Law Firm PLLC, Richard W. Schulte of Wright & Schulte LLC, Manvir S. Grewal of Grewal Law PLLC, Stephen Drew of Drew Cooper & Anding and Bartholomew J. Dalton of Dalton & Associates PA.
The University of Michigan is represented by Amanda K. Rice, Andrew J. Clopton, Jack Williams, Stephanie E. Parker and Stephen J. Cowen of Jones Day.
The case is John Doe MC-1 v. the University of Michigan et al., case number 2:20-cv-10568, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
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