Michigan State and Nassar survivors reach $500M settlement

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University on Wednesday announced a $500 million settlement with more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history.

The deal surpasses the more than $109 million that Penn State University paid to settle claims by at least 35 people that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused boys, though the Nassar settlement involves far more victims.

Michigan State and lawyers for 332 victims announced the deal after negotiating privately with the help of a mediator. Under the agreement, $425 million would be paid to current claimants and $75 million would be set aside for any future claims.

The statement doesn’t indicate how much money each victim would receive. It also doesn’t say how Michigan State will pay the bill.

Michigan State was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints about Nassar, some as far back as the 1990s. The school, however, has insisted that no one covered up assaults.

“We are truly sorry to all the survivors and their families for what they have been through, and we admire the courage it has taken to tell their stories,” said Brian Breslin, chairman of Michigan State’s governing board. “We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention.”

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise that it was treatment. He was also found to have child pornography and is serving prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

He treated campus athletes and scores of young gymnasts at his Michigan State office. He had an international reputation while working at the same time for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Olympic gold medalists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney say they were among Nassar’s victims.

“This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced,” said lead attorney John Manly.

The deal applies only to Michigan State. Lawsuits still are pending against Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and an elite gymnastics club in the Lansing-area where assaults occurred.

Kalamazoo native Rachael Denhollander, who was the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Nassar in 2016, released a statement Wednesday:

“My family and I will be withdrawing for the remainder of the week to take some much needed time together. This process has been incredibly difficult on all of us, including our young children, so for the remainder of the week I will largely unavailable for comment or appearances. However, my official statement regarding the settlement with MSU is below.

I am very grateful to have reached a settlement with MSU that reflects the incredible damage which took place on MSU’s campus. I am thankful that the litigation phase is over so that my sisters and I can move forward.

I remain deeply disappointed at the missed opportunity for meaningful reform at the University. My choice to come forward publicly against Larry, and later against the institutions that allowed him to prey on children for decades, was motivated by the need for accountability and reform, so that other little children don’t live the nightmares we lived. This is a passion all of the Sister Survivors share, and one which has not diminished or changed. “Moving forward”, for myself and many others, means continuing to advocate, call for accountability, and stand for those who have yet to have a voice. This includes continuing to advocate for desperately needed accountability and change at USAG and in the USOC. I remain disappointed that resolution was not reached with these other organizations who also enabled a serial predator for decades.

I am deeply aware that behind me and my sisters are hundreds of survivors who still have no voice. Who still have no access to the court systems because of outdated and archaic criminal and civil statutes of limitations – some of the worst in the entire country. I renew my call, therefore, for the MI House of Representatives to stand for these survivors, ask themselves “what is right?” and “What does the data truly show?”, and pass the reform package we so desperately need as a first step in legislative reform.

The litigation phase is over, but the fight for change and accountability, the fight to give survivors a voice and protect the next generation, has only just begun. We intend to stand united with, and for, ALL survivors of abuse as we work together towards these goals.

I am also deeply grateful for the journalists who worked so tirelessly to find and tell the truth so that reform can come. Please continue this fight with us. Sexual assault and the cultural and institutional dynamics that allow it to flourish are everywhere, and need to be uncovered and exposed in all their ugliness.

To everyone who has supported us and pushed with us for reform, please know how much your voices have meant to me, and to all of us, through this process. Please keep standing with us – there is so much left to be done.”

Bill Forsyth, who was hired by Michigan’s attorney general to investigate MSU, released a statement on the agreement as well:

“It is very important to see resolution on the civil side, and I hope this provides some sense of relief and closure for the survivors. That being said, my investigation is still open and ongoing.”

The next step for the university will be to decide how to pay out the settlement.

Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, said he is glad to see a settlement happen.

“It’s a tragedy what happened with the victims in that circumstance and Michigan State needs some healing,” he said. “The students, the victims, the parents, the alumni, the university needs some healing.”

Grand Rapids attorney Stephen Drew, who represents some of the survivors, said the money will bring survivors closer to a sense of justice. 

“This recognizes the terrible effect that has occurred over 20 years for all of these ladies, and so regardless of how it’s paid, the fact that there’s finally some just compensation and they can move on,” he said.

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