Michigan State: We’re immune from liability in Nassar claims

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University is asking a judge to dismiss a second wave of lawsuits related to former sports doctor Larry Nassar, even as the school says it’s working to reach a deal with additional assault victims.

MSU defended itself in a court filing Monday, declaring it’s immune from liability for Nassar’s crimes.

Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting athletes, mostly female gymnasts, at MSU and a Lansing-area gymnastics club. Former Olympians said he also molested them in Texas and overseas while he worked for USA Gymnastics.

“Although Nassar’s actions were repugnant and merit the heavy criminal penalties imposed upon him, the law does not support plaintiffs’ attempts to hold the MSU defendants liable for his wrongs,” lawyers for the school said, citing immunity and a statute of limitations, among other defenses.

MSU last year agreed to a $500 million deal with Nassar’s accusers. Most of the money, $425 million, was for 333 people, mostly women and girls, who had already sued. MSU so far has settled with 72 people in the second wave of litigation but dozens remain.

Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant told the Detroit Free Press that the school was under a court order to reply to the lawsuits. But she also said there were “active settlement negotiations.”

“This is simply a procedural step in the litigation process. … While the motion is pending before the court, we hope to reach settlements with as many plaintiffs as possible,” Guerrant said.

But an attorney for the victims, Donna MacKenzie, said the court filing was unfortunate.

“MSU should be ashamed by the way it continues to represent to the public that it cares about settlement and healing, while at the same time paying their lawyers thousands of dollars to aggressively defend and file motions to dismiss the survivors’ claims in court,” MacKenzie said.

Another attorney for the victims, Melissa Fry Hague, released the following statement:

“Some of the cases in the first wave were in the same procedural posture as the second wave, including the timeliness of the filings. Many of these girls filed their cases after the state legislature opened a window allowing them to file cases that would have otherwise been time barred under Michigan law. MSU settled time barred cases in the first wave. These survivors deserve the same justice. If MSU’s top priority is to change their policies and procedures and the culture at MSU surrounding sexual assault, they should start by treating all the Nassar survivors the same. What they are doing is not in the best interest of the mental health and well-being of these young girls.

News 8 contributed to this story.

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