Get Caught Up: University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement in Anderson sex abuse case

1,050 survivors to share in settlement

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan shows Dr. Robert E. Anderson. (Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan via AP) (Robert Kalmbach, Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with hundreds of people who say they were sexually assaulted by former sports doctor Robert Anderson.

Get Caught Up” is ClickOnDetroit’s Saturday news review to help readers catch up on the biggest stories of the week.

Attorney Parker Stinar said Wednesday that 1,050 survivors will share in the settlement, which was reached the night before.

“I am proud to announce that a settlement was reached with the 1,050 survivors of Robert Anderson and the University of Michigan,” Stinar said. “It has been a long and challenging journey, and I believe this settlement will provide justice and healing for the many brave men and women who refused to be silenced.”

The university had been in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits by mostly men who said Anderson sexually abused them during routine medical examinations. Anderson worked at the university from 1966 until his 2003 retirement and was director of the university’s Health Service and a physician for multiple athletic teams, including football.

“The University of Michigan has accepted responsibility financially and otherwise for harm that was caused by Anderson to so many young people that could have been avoided. The university should be commended and not condemned.

“Most of our clients had a strong love for the university and did not want to see permanent damage, but wanted accountability. I believe we accomplished those goals yesterday.

“It is time for the Michigan legislators to look at why two of the largest scandals in the history of the country -- Larry Nassar and Robert Anderson -- happened at Michigan’s two largest universities. Other states have addressed this issue. It is time for Michigan leadership to do the same.”

Jamie White, attorney representing dozens of survivors in Anderson case

A report by a firm hired by the school determined that staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career.

“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Jordan Acker, chair of the University of Michigan Board of Regents. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”

The university regularly is ranked among the top public universities in the U.S.

The deal came just after two men who say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson called for a change in leadership with the weekend firing of university President Mark Schlissel that would allow the school be more accountable toward abuse victims.

Survivors Keith Moree and Robert Stone told reporters Tuesday that the Ann Arbor school is ripe for a culture change as its board conducts a search to permanently replace Schlissel, who was removed last Saturday due to an alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee.”

“This agreement is a critical step among many the university has taken to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent and address misconduct,” said interim university President Mary Sue Coleman.

More: Anderson abuse survivors call for new dialogue in wake of Schlissel’s firing at University of Michigan

‘This is a day about the survivors’: Attorneys, University of Michigan comment on sexual abuse settlement agreement

“The fact of the matter is, (the survivors) now feel like they’ve been heard. They now feel that they’ve been acknowledged,” said Attorney Ven Johnson.

Johnson represents 25 survivors, a majority of them are men and are athletes who want to remain anonymous. Johnson said Wednesday was an emotional and important day for those clients.

“It certainly takes most people a couple of days to really understand the magnitude, and I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about the acknowledgement by the university that these people universally love and support to this day,” Johnson said.

Attorney Jamie White represents about 80 survivors.

“They were relieved. On our group Zoom a couple of nights ago, we had some anticipation that we might have some progress on a settlement. There was a certain sense of relief that we were getting here,” White said. “Some of these guys are older, and some have passed away, some of my clients are estates at this point in time. So it was important to us, important to the court and, in all fairness, important to the University of Michigan that this get resolved sooner than later.”

White also represented a number of Larry Nassar survivors, and said this case is different, especially because a lot of the victims are men.

“Men are even less likely to report sexual assault than women, according to statistics,” White said. “A significant amount of these guys were African American men who were dropped into the University of Michigan at the age of 17, 18 in the 70s and 80s, and some even in the 90s, when it was truly their only option to move forward.”

As for what’s next, the university’s board of regents has to approve the agreement, and the survivors do too. The court will also have to approve the settlement.

Of the $490 million settlement, $30 million will be reserved for future accusers who come forward by July 31, 2023.

A third party will help lawyers divide the remaining $460 million for the survivors.

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About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.