Ohio State to Pay $41 Million to Settle 12 Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
In March we reported that Ohio State University agreed to settle 11 of 18 sexual abuse lawsuits which included claims filed by hundreds of former student-athletes against then-wrestling team physician, Dr. Richard Strauss. At the time, a settlement figure had not been determined.
On Friday, the university announced it would pay $40.9 million to settle 12 of the lawsuits filed by 162 of the survivors. Approximately 350 survivors have filed suit against the school alleging abuse by Strauss, whose 20-year tenure extended from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. Strauss dies by suicide in 2005.
Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995, has previously denied multiple allegations of having knowledge of Strauss’s behavior and failing to stop him from sexually abusing student-athletes. Jordan has yet to issue a statement following the settlement announcement, and a request for comment from PINews was not returned.
Ohio State’s President, Michael V. Drake, stated via press release, “Nothing can undo the wrongs of the past, but we must do what we can today to work toward restorative justice. Our focus will always be on the survivors. We know it took great courage for them to come forward, and we are grateful.”
In terms of how settlement amounts will be distributed to each survivor, the university indicated individual figures will be “based on the harm and damages experienced by each survivor.” As part of the settlement terms, all plaintiffs agreed to dismiss their claims against Ohio State. But the university’s legal troubles related to the sexual abuse scandal are far from over, as claims of many additional survivors are moving forward following a decision last month by an Ohio federal judge to lift a stay on cases pending mediation.
As for the settlement announced Friday, attorneys representing over half of the survivors expressed frustration over the $40.9 million figure, deeming it far from adequate. Public Justice, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization, represents 86 survivors in partnership with attorneys from Scott Elliot Smith LPA and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. Together they issued a press release calling the settlement “too little and far too late for survivors who have waited so long for justice, healing, and closure” while adding that they had been “excluded from the negotiations that produced the settlement announced today [Friday].”
Moreover, Public Justice Senior Attorney, Adele Kimmel, said, “The details of this secretly negotiated settlement leave much to be desired. In addition to lacking any systemic reforms to ensure OSU does not repeat the mistakes of the past, the settlement also falls far short of justly compensating survivors who have endured decades of trauma.”
Multiple aspects of the Ohio State settlement contrast significantly with other recent university settlements reached following major sexual abuse scandals. Two prominent examples include Michigan State University’s $425 million settlement reached in 2018 with survivors of Dr. Larry Nassar, as well as Penn State University’s $93 million settlement with survivors of Jerry Sandusky. But beyond the Ohio State settlement being a considerably smaller overall figure, the Michigan State and Penn State settlements also included funds set aside, with MSU allocating $75 million for possible future claimants and PSU allocating $16 million for an undisclosed number of additional survivors.
The Ohio State $41 million settlement will provide approximately $250,000 to each survivor, a paltry sum when compared to the individual payouts provided by the aforementioned universities. In comparison, Michigan State’s settlement provided approximately $1.28 million per survivor, and Penn State’s provided approximately $2.9 million.
“The financial terms of today’s settlement are insufficient while any other meaningful terms, such as comprehensive changes to how OSU addresses sexual abuse, are non-existent,” said attorney Scott Smith of Scott Elliot Smith LPA.
Attorneys representing the 86 survivors vowed to continue to fight for an equitable and just settlement. “We will litigate and advocate for our clients as long as it takes, until we get justice for them and complete accountability for Ohio State,” said attorney Ilann Maazel of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.
In the press release announcing the settlement, Ohio State stated it “continues to participate in good faith in the mediation process with the survivors involved in the remaining lawsuits, and remains committed to a resolution with plaintiffs, including a monetary resolution.”
The release also encouraged, “Anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct while at Ohio State — and the incident involved another student or university employee — to report to the Office of Institutional Equity, the university’s anonymous reporting service or law enforcement.”
Survivors can also contact the Public Justice organization directly online. Their National Headquarters phone number is 202-797-8600, and their West Coast Office phone number is 510-622-8150.