In a court filing late Friday, the University of Michigan admitted that a former football team doctor sexually assaulted students, but said lawsuits related to that abuse must be dismissed.
As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the filing states that the university is "determined to acknowledge and reckon with that past and, to the extent possible, provide justice — including in the form of monetary relief — to Anderson’s survivors." However, that doesn't mean those survivors have standing to sue the university and any relief should come outside of the court system, the filing in U.S. District Court says.
Anderson, who died in 2008 was closely involved in the school's athletic department for decades, including helping famed athletic director Don Canham cut costs by requiring annual physicals and teaming with legendary football coach Bo Schembechler to set up an important drug testing program. Numerous men have come forward publicly and in lawsuits to allege that Anderson molested them during medical exams.
Anderson's sexual assaults were so well known among Michigan athletes, accusers have said, that he earned nicknames — "Dr. Drop Your Drawers" and "Dr. Glove." Anderson was known to give unnecessary rectal and testicular exams to students. He also allegedly traded sexual favors for letters to Vietnam-era draft boards establishing men as homosexual and thus making them eligible for a draft deferment, the Free Press reported.
The 38-page motion comes in response to more than 40 cases filed against the university. Several hundred people have called a university hotline alleging abuse by Anderson. Another group of victims, represented by the lead attorneys for the survivors of former Michigan State University team physician Larry Nassar, filed an intent to sue in state court late last month. Another group of Anderson survivors have not yet sued, but their attorneys have been in talks with the university.
Michigan's attorneys say Anderson's victims have no standing to sue and their already filed lawsuits should be tossed out. "Plaintiff’s claims — which involve a perpetrator who has been dead for 12 years, who has not been employed by the University for 17 years, and who assaulted him decades ago — are barred by the three-year statute of limitations," the lawyers said.
"It’s disappointing to see the Regents trying to rely on the statute of limitations to dismiss these cases when university officials knowingly hid the truth from Anderson’s victims for 30 years," John Manly, an attorney who represents Anderson survivors said. "U-M’s move is sadly predictable and should incentivize the Legislature and governor to enact statute of limitations reform to allow all Anderson’s survivors to have their day in court. It’s also why we have declined to file lawsuits and are going through the required claims process in order to hopefully resolve the cases absent litigation."
The Big Ten Conference has seen more than its share of abuse allegations and settlements. Michigan State paid $500 million to Nassar survivors, Penn State paid $109 million to Jerry Sandusky survivors, and Ohio State recently reached settlement terms with about half of the Richard Strauss survivors, but terms were not released. Nassar, Strauss and Anderson were all doctors accused of sexually assaulting students, including athletes.