The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Ohio State University's attempt to dismiss lawsuits brought by individuals who allege they were sexually abused by Richard Strauss, the late doctor employed by OSU for nearly two decades.
On Monday, SCOTUS justices turned away Ohio State's appeal of a lower court's ruling that allowed the litigation to proceed despite having been brought decades after the abuse, which occurred from 1978 to 1998, the year Strauss retired. He died by suicide in 2005.
"We look forward to returning to the trial court, having our clients' stories heard, and gathering further evidence of OSU's widespread cover-up of Dr. Strauss's serial predation," they said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.
"For decades, OSU has attempted to run out the clock on its accountability and protect its reputation through a series of actions aimed at hiding its role in perpetuating the serial sexual abuse that OSU students and others experienced on the university's watch."
According to John Kruzel of Reuters, Ohio State reached settlement agreements with 296 survivors of Strauss' abuse, while others continued to pursue their claims in court.
At issue in Ohio State's appeal was whether the state of Ohio's two-year statute of limitations for such misconduct began to run at the time of the abuse or in 2018, when the alleged victims learned that the university was launching an independent investigation after a former member of the university's men's wrestling team reported to the school that Strauss had abused him decades earlier.
A 2019 report detailing the investigative findings said that Strauss had sexually abused at least 177 men, nearly all of whom were students, and that university staff who knew of the abuse failed to act, Kruzel reported. The abuse included groping and fondling of the students' genitals and other acts under the guise of medical examination.
News of the investigation and its findings prompted more than 500 plaintiffs to sue Ohio State, alleging they had been sexually abused by Strauss and that the school had shown deliberate indifference. A group of 100 plaintiffs brought lawsuits under Title IX, which look to state law statutes of limitations but federal courts determine when the clock begins.
A federal judge initially dismissed the Title IX claims as untimely under Ohio's two-year statute of limitations. But the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Court of Appeals last September revived the lawsuits, saying that the claims by the plaintiffs became legally enforceable only "when they knew or had reason to know that Ohio State" had treated their alleged abuse with deliberate indifference.
The ruling also opened the door for certain alleged victims who were not former Ohio State students or employees to sue the school under Title IX.
Ohio State told the Supreme Court in its appeal that allowing the lawsuits to proceed based on the 6th Circuit's ruling would mean "there is essentially no limit on the stale claims that could be brought," Kruzel reported for Reuters.