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U. of Michigan Reaches $490M Settlement in Abuse Case

Paul Steinbach
Um Seal

The University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with former athletes and other Michigan students who sued the school claiming they had been sexually assaulted by a former football team doctor.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, there are 1,050 former athletes and other Michigan students suing the university in federal court. The suits claim the university failed to act when it knew Robert Anderson, who worked at the university from 1968-2003 and died in 2008, was sexually assaulting students.

Much of the settlement monies will be split between those who have sued the school, while a portion will be set aside for future claims, the Free Press reported.

The settlement is about $10 million less than the settlement reached between Michigan State University and the hundreds of survivors of sexual assault by Larry Nassar, a team physician who served the Spartans and USA Gymnastics.

According to the Free Press, Anderson was known to give unnecessary rectal and testicular exams to students. Tad Deluca, a former Michigan wrestler, said he raised concerns about Anderson in 1975 after he went to Anderson for a shoulder examination and received rectal and testicular exams in the process.

Anderson also allegedly traded sexual favors for letters to send to Vietnam-era draft boards establishing men as homosexual and thus making them eligible for a draft deferment. His sexual assaults were so well known among Michigan athletes, accusers have said, that he earned the nicknames "Dr. Drop Your Drawers" and "Dr. Glove."

Deluca wrote a nine-page letter to then athletic director Don Canham and Bill Johannesen, the Wolverines wrestling coach at the time, outlining the abuse. In response, the two threw Deluca off the team, Deluca said in a news conference in February 2020. 

The case has been covered extensively in AB Today, with nearly 20 articles detailing its various stages.

In 2018, inspired by women coming forward about being sexually assaulted by MSU's Nassar, Deluca wrote to current Michigan AD Warde Manuel. That led to a criminal investigation, but the Washtenaw County prosecutor declined to pursue charges, largely because Anderson was dead.

As more players came forward, with one conducting a sit-in outside the president's campus residence, the university commissioned an independent investigation of Anderson. The firm conducting the investigation released a report in May that was critical of the university.

"A senior university administrator was told about Dr. Anderson’s misconduct several times between 1978 or 1979 and 1981 but did not take appropriate action," the law firm WilmerHale wrote, as reported by the Free Press. "Concerning information was also shared with other university personnel. Although the information these individuals received varied in directness and specificity, Dr. Anderson’s misconduct may have been detected earlier and brought to an end if they had considered, understood, investigated or elevated what they heard."

"The trauma that Dr. Anderson’s misconduct caused persists to this day," the firm's report continued. "The experiences that many of Dr. Anderson’s patients relayed to us were widely consistent, containing similar details and key elements. We have no doubt, based on the evidence available to us including the first-hand accounts of his patients, that Dr. Anderson engaged in a pervasive, decades-long, destructive pattern of sexual misconduct."

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