EXPLAINER: How will U. of Michigan assault settlement work?
DETROIT (AP) — A $490 million deal to settle claims of sexual assault against a University of Michigan doctor will be handled in a similar way to the $500 million agreement worked out in 2018 by Michigan State University and the victims of Larry Nassar.
The school won’t have a role in how the money is divided. Rather a retired judge, maybe two, will be presented with individual claims and determine a figure, attorneys said.
Simple math pegs an average payment of more than $400,000 for each of the 1,050 people — most of them men — though some could be higher or lower, depending on the impact of Robert Anderson’s abuse.
“Everybody is not going to be the same,” attorney Jamie White said. “These men were not out for money. Most of them are established U. of M. graduates. This was more about holding the university accountable.”
Former students and athletes at U-M said Anderson molested them during exams. He was a campus doctor for 37 years, especially in the athletic department, before retiring in 2003 and also gave physicals to people in the aviation industry. He died in 2008.
The allegations about Anderson emerged in 2018 when a wrestler from the 1970s wrote a letter to the athletic director, who referred it to police. A subsequent investigation found that complaints about Anderson were lodged multiple times years earlier, yet no one at the university got rid of him.
THE SCHOOL’S RESPONSE
When lawsuits were filed in 2020, U-M lawyers said the allegations were too old and violated Michigan’s time limit on filing personal-injury cases. But outside court, the university acknowledged that assaults occurred and expressed a willingness to reach an agreement with the growing pool of victims.
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” Jordan Acker, chairman of the school’s governing board, said Wednesday.
COMPARISONS WITH NASSAR
Nassar molested Michigan State female athletes, U.S. Olympic gymnasts and young gymnasts who trained in the Lansing, Michigan, area. He pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison. Michigan State was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints against him.
Michigan State’s $500 million settlement was larger though it involved fewer victims, approximately 520, than in the Anderson scandal. Many were under 18 when Nassar assaulted them.
“There were scores of women who came forward with impact statements in court,” attorney Megan Bonanni said. “It really became a story that captured the attention of our entire country because of the criminal prosecution. That factored in as well.”
The agreement between U-M and Anderson’s victims still needs the blessing of U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts. Payments could begin by summer, predicted John Manly, an attorney for the men.
“This is a just result,” said Manly, who was involved in the talks. “The reason this case settled isn’t because of the largesse of the University of Michigan. This case settled because of the survivors’ stories and a judge who pressed both sides to resolve it.”
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Find AP’s full coverage of the University of Michigan sexual assault case at: https://apnews.com/hub/robert-anderson