University of Michigan reaches $490m settlement over sexual abuse

More than 1,000 people say they were sexually assaulted by a former sports doctor at the US school

The university said 1,050 people will share in the settlement, which was reached through mediation. Reuters

The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 people who say they were sexually assaulted by a former sports doctor during his four-decade career at the US school, the university and those involved in the settlement announced on Wednesday.

The university said 1,050 people will share in the settlement, which was reached through mediation.

The plaintiffs and their lawyers will determine how to split the $460m, with no input from the university, the school said in a statement. An additional $30mn will be set aside 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 Regents.

“At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”

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The work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue
Jordan Acker, chairman of the University of Michigan Board of Regents

Lawyer Parker Stinar said the settlement was reached on Tuesday night. The university had been in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits by mostly men who said Dr Robert Anderson sexually abused them during routine medical examinations.

“It has been a long and challenging journey, and I believe this settlement will provide justice and healing for the many brave men and women who refused to be silenced,” said Mr Stinar, who represents about 200 victims.

Tad DeLuca, the whistleblower whose letter to Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel alleging sexual assault sparked an investigation into Anderson, found no joy in the settlement and said it will not address deeper issues.

The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with hundreds of people who say they were sexually assaulted by the former sport doctor Robert E Anderson. AP

“The settlement is going to gloss things over so Michigan can go back to having a glossy block `M’ and look wonderful for the world, but the situation on campus is horrible,” Mr DeLuca said in a telephone interview on Wednesday morning.

Anderson worked at the university from 1966 until his 2003 retirement and was director of the university’s Health Service and a physician for several athletic teams, including the American football team. A number of athletes have come forward to accuse Anderson, who died in 2008, of sexually abusing them.

A report by a firm hired by the school determined that staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career.

The deal came after two men who say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson said they were hoping that a change in leadership with the weekend firing of university president Mark Schlissel would allow the school to be more accountable towards abuse victims.

Keith Moree and Robert Stone told reporters on Tuesday that the Ann Arbor school is ripe for a culture change as its board conducts a search to permanently replace Mr Schlissel, who was removed on Saturday due to an alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee".

The settlement with Anderson's victims is one of several agreed to by universities following sex abuse scandals, including Michigan State University's agreement to pay $500m to settle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Larry Nassar, a campus sports doctor as well as a doctor for USA Gymnastics.

That settlement, announced in May 2018, was considered the largest at the time, far surpassing the $100m-plus that Penn State University has paid to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant American football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse.

Updated: January 19, 2022, 8:35 PM