University of Michigan hopes to settle doctor abuse lawsuits

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan hopes to settle lawsuits from hundreds of people who say they were sexually abused by a sports doctor who worked at the university for decades, officials said Tuesday.

The school aims to develop a process outside the court system to provide “more certain, faster relief,” in addressing misconduct claims against Dr. Robert Anderson, Board of Regents Chair Ron Weiser and school President Mark Schlissel said in a news release.

The goal also is to maintain the privacy of victims who have come forward, the officials said. Anderson worked at the university from the mid-1960s through 2003. He died in 2008.

“The university is eager to continue this dialogue as it assesses over the next few months the best approach to resolving these claims,” Schlissel said. “The university recognizes the harms he caused and is committed to developing a fair, just, timely, and efficient resolution process — one that does not require drawn-out litigation.”

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Campus police began looking into Anderson in 2018 after a former student-athlete wrote to athletic director Warde Manuel about being sexually abused by Anderson during medical exams in the early 1970s.

Attorney Mike Cox, whose firm is suing the University of Michigan in federal district court an Washtenaw County Circuit Court, said he thinks the lawsuits are driving the university’s efforts to avoid public and court scrutiny.

“It is only in a courtroom where the survivors (and the public) can learn the truth,” Cox said in an email. “It is in a courtroom, where survivors can compel witnesses through subpoenas to tell the full truth of Anderson’s abuse and UM’s cover up of that abuse.”

Last week, the Anderson Survivors Legal Team said it filed 20-plus notices of intent to sue the school, its board and Anderson’s estate.

One of the group’s clients, Robert Stone, was the first to speak publicly about allegations of abuse against Anderson.

“Our clients sincerely hope this is a step in the right direction by the university to provide full justice to the hundreds of Anderson victims,” said attorney John Manly, who is part of the legal team representing more than 100 accusers.

“On the other hand, this could be a Catholic bishops-style plan to provide public relations cover to the university while providing little transparency and fractional justice to the survivors,” Manly added. “We hope that’s not the case. Time will tell.”

The university has acknowledged some campus employees were aware of accusations against Anderson before the 2018 complaint. The school has started an independent investigation into the claims, which date back as far as the 1960s.

Many of the complaints against Anderson have come through a hotline that the school established in February. The school said earlier this month that it had reached out to about 6,800 former student-athletes who may have been patients of Anderson.

“My goal has always been to hold the university accountable without resorting to public lawsuits, and to maintain my clients’ confidentiality,” said attorney Parker Stinar, who works for a firm representing more than 80 people who allege they were abused by Anderson. “We have reached the point where the University has no choice but to accept responsibility.”

The revelations at Michigan echo other high-profile allegations and investigations of sexual abuse made by patients of sports doctors at Michigan State University and Ohio State University.

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