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Ohio State Settles 11 Lawsuits With Sex Abuse Survivors

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Ohio State University announced today that they have agreed to settle 11 of 18 lawsuits filed against the school by approximately 350 men alleging sexual abuse by former wrestling team physician, Dr. Richard Strauss.

The university did not disclose the amount of money that would be paid out with each settlement, but stated via press release that the funds would be allocated by an independent special master “on an individual basis based on the harm and damages experienced by each survivor.”

Dr. Richard Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, served as the wrestling team’s doctor over a span of nearly two decades. In that time, he is alleged to have sexually abused or assaulted hundreds of student athletes.

Attorney Rick Schulte of Wright & Schulte LLC served as lead negotiator for a number of the plaintiffs’ firms. Schulte indicated the settlement was agreed upon following extensive negotiations.

“The bravery of our clients is humbling,” Schulte said via the university’s press release. “We are pleased that Ohio State stepped forward and did the right thing. This settlement will help our clients move forward with the healing process.”

With the settlement only applying to 11 of the 18 lawsuits, the seven remaining plaintiffs and their counsel have expressed mixed feelings regarding the announcement. An attorney representing 83 survivors in two of the seven suits that aren’t part of the newly announced settlement stated they were “concerned that it was not a full and fair settlement for survivors,” and they “urged the university to release the terms of the settlement.”

Attorney Adele Kimmel of Public Justice, who represents plaintiffs in two cases, issued a statement indicating that the settlement “was reached without giving every survivor a seat at the table.” Moreover, Kimmel said, “It is hard to imagine how such a negotiation could lead to sufficient compensation for all the survivors.”

“By refusing to release any substantive details, OSU has failed to inform survivors if today’s settlement is a true opportunity to begin addressing some of the trauma and financial burden the university’s wrongdoing has forced upon them,” Kimmel said in the statement. “Too often, OSU’s assurances that it has taken what happened seriously, and have taken responsibility, have proven to be false.”

Outgoing Ohio State President, Michael V. Drake, issued a statement declaring that, “Strauss’ conduct was reprehensible, and the university’s failures at the time are completely unacceptable.” Drake added that, “While nothing can undo what happened here years ago, today’s university has a responsibility to support our former students and alumni, and this initial settlement is another important step in the process of restorative justice.”

Additionally, Ohio State’s press release declared, “The Strauss matter was brought to light by the university, which launched and announced publicly an independent investigation of Strauss’ abuse after one survivor came forward in April 2018.”

How the remaining seven lawsuits will be handled is currently unknown. Attorney Rocky Ratliff represents another group of Strauss survivors and is a former Ohio State wrestler. Ratliff said via public statement that his group has not yet settled with the university. Furthermore, Steve Estey, an attorney representing another group of survivors that includes outspoken Strauss victim, Brian Garrett, indicated they have also declined to settle at this time.

“We are pleased to see that Ohio State settled with a group of individual abuse victims that, for various reasons, valued their claims differently,” Estey said via public announcement. “We will continue to insist on full compensation for our clients, who suffered extreme physical sexual abuse and life altering trauma. As the only group that has filed a class action lawsuit, we also will act to ensure that OSU victims who are not ready to come forward yet will also be compensated in a settlement, and that institutional change is implemented so this never happens again.”

The Ohio State sexual abuse scandal has received significant media attention of late over allegations against former assistant coach and current U.S. Congressman, Jim Jordan, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to the decades of abuse by Dr. Strauss. Jordan has yet to issue a statement regarding today’s settlement announcement.

Ohio State continues to maintain that they have and will continue to take steps to ensure that similar widespread abuse never occurs in the future. “Our focus has always been and remains on the survivors,” the university said in its press release. “They have our sincere appreciation for coming forward. We know that this takes great courage. Without them, the truth would have remained unknown.”