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University of Michigan to pay $490 million to victims of sexual abuse

Published Jan 20, 2022 9:39 am

The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with hundreds of students and athletes sexually abused by a long-time university doctor, the school and attorneys announced on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

"We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors," Jordan Acker, chair of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, said in a statement.

Richard Anderson, who worked at the Ann Arbor-based university as a doctor from 1966 to 2003, is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of male students and athletes. Anderson died in 2008.

The university said $460 million would be distributed to some 1,050 victims of Anderson who have come forward and $30 million would be set aside for future claimants.

A 240-page report by the WilmerHale law firm released last year found that "Anderson engaged in sexual misconduct with patients on countless occasions."

"These survivors refused to be silent and demanded accountability from the University of Michigan," said Parker Stinar, a partner at Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, who represented more than 200 of the claimants.

"I think this settlement provides that accountability," Stinar said. "Now they can move on from the litigation component."

Stinar said the settlement is one of the largest sexual abuse settlements in the history of the United States.

Michigan State University, another school in the northern US state, was rocked by allegations that a school doctor who also treated members of the US women's Olympics gymnastics team routinely sexually abused patients.

Larry Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to between 40 and 125 years in prison for sexually assaulting dozens of women and girls. The school reached a $500 million settlement with more than 300 of his victims. 

The sexual abuse scandal at the University of Michigan has threatened to tarnish the reputation of the school's legendary football coach Bo Schembechler, who died in 2006.

One of Schembechler's sons, Matt Schembechler, said that he was abused by Anderson when he was 10 years old. He said he told his father about it but nothing was done.

Other members of the family rushed to Bo Schembechler's defense. "Bo had a clear and compelling sense of right and wrong: He would not have tolerated misconduct," they said in a statement.

The University of Southern California announced in March of last year that it had entered into three settlements totaling $1.1 billion with hundreds of female students sexually abused by a school gynecologist. (AFP)