Proposed bills could pave the way for 1,000 abuse victims to Sue Michigan University

New bills have been announced that will be considered by the Michigan State Senate later this month that could allow about 1,000 victims of the sexual abuse of Robert Anderson, a doctor at the University of Michigan from the late 1960s to 2003, which abused hundreds of student-athletes, suing the school for physical and emotional damage.

The bills, the second to be proposed in recent months, would create a 30-day window that ignores the statute of limitations to allow lawsuits to be filed against the university. The school would not be allowed to use government immunity as a defense.

Anderson, who retired from college in 2003 and died in 2008, was discovered by a law firm hired by the university for abusing hundreds of people while there, and officials of the school missed several opportunities to deal with him and fire him when complaints were raised by students.

The bills come years after similar legislation was passed that allowed victims of former Michigan State University physician and US gymnastics team Larry Nassar to sue the state from Michigan. MSU then agreed to a $ 500 million settlement with the hundreds of victims who sued the university.

Republican State Senator Tom Barrett, one of the leaders of the new legislation, said MU has publicly acknowledged the abuses and their failure to follow through. Barrett also said Anderson’s victims had the same rights as Nassar’s to seek compensation from the school.

A sign referencing former University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson is on display during a vigil for survivors of sexual abuse outside the home of outgoing UM President Mark Schlissel, the October 13, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The legislation announced Tuesday by Michigan state senators would allow at least 1,000 of Anderson’s victims to sue the university for damages resulting from his abuse.
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

This is the second time since 2018 that the state can retroactively open a deadline for prosecuting abuse under the guise of medical treatment. Similar legislation was enacted following the conviction of Nassar, who assaulted hundreds of girls and women, including at Michigan State University.

The legislation will be presented to the state Senate this month. The related but broader state House of Representatives bills that were introduced last winter have not moved forward since a committee hearing in September in which three Anderson victims testified emotionally to have been raped.

Many of the victims were college student-athletes who were hesitant or afraid to come forward because they thought no one would believe them, Barrett said.

“We are obligated to provide a path to justice for victims,” ​​Barrett said.

Michigan has been in mediation to resolve lawsuits for over a year. The legislation could offer more certainty to victims and increase pressure on the school for a resolution.

“Anderson’s survivors also deserve their day in court to seek justice at the University of Michigan – which has sheltered, licensed and protected Dr Anderson for more than 30 years,” said Parker Stinar, an attorney for about 200. victims.

A spokesperson for the university declined to comment on the bills.

Under the 2018 laws, victims of Nassar had 90 days to prosecute retroactively. In addition, people who were sexually abused as children can take legal action until their 28th birthday. The previous deadline was usually the 19th birthday of a minor victim.

Critics said Michigan’s statute of limitations still lags many other states despite recent progress. House bills would open up a one-year period for Anderson victims to bring an action and extend the time limit to 28 years, 10 years from the abuse or six years after discovery of the injuries caused through abuse.

Marci Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, a Philadelphia-based think tank that tracks limitation period reforms, and Kathryn Robb, executive director of Philadelphia-based CHILD USAdvocacy, gave testimony supporting House legislation.

Michigan’s short (statute of limitations) precluded a broad category of victims from appearing in court, while also protecting the institutions that housed abusers and masked abuse, ”they wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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