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In response to a pending lawsuit brought against Ohio State University by former assistant wrestling coach, Russ Hellickson, the university has announced that it will begin settlement negotiations with approximately 100 former wrestlers and coaches who have accused team doctor Richard Strauss of abusing them between 1979 and 1997. The lawsuit argues that Ohio State, which is currently facing several other lawsuits from former students who say they were abused by their team doctor, should have protected the athletes from abuse and should have ensured that Strauss was not abusing patients at the student health center.
According to a report by the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State plans to settle a pending lawsuit from former athletes who were sexually abused by team doctors. As part of the deal, about 500 former athletes would be eligible to seek cash payments of $7,500 each. In 2016, Ohio State paid former athletes $6.5 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit that accused the school of ignoring complaints about its team doctors. The payments to the athletes would come from the $500 million settlement Ohio State reached last year with current and former athletes who said school officials ignored complaints about abusive team doctors and other sexual abuse.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State University said Monday that it is planning a one-on-one settlement program that could help resolve other pending lawsuits over allegations of sexual misconduct by Richard Strauss, the team doctor accused of abusing hundreds of young men during his two decades at the university.
In court documents, the company said it plans to launch an individual settlement program this month for plaintiffs in five pending lawsuits and plans to pay out an average settlement amount of up to $252,000 per person. This is the average of the nearly $47 million paid to 185 plaintiffs.
The program could allow some of the remaining plaintiffs to settle their cases, though others say they will continue to litigate.
Attorney Rocky Ratliff, who represents some of the plaintiffs and is one of them himself, called the filings disgusting. He said the men who tried to hold the university accountable by speaking publicly about their experiences actually got less than the Strauss accusers who previously reached a settlement, and far less than the women who were hurt in the scandals surrounding sexual abuse of doctors at Michigan State and the University of Southern California.
When asked how he would respond to OSU’s offer, Ratliff said: No would be an understatement.
Ohio State has publicly apologized for the school board’s failure to arrest Strauss during his tenure, despite complaints against him. He undertook to pay financial compensation to those he had wronged.
Over the past three years, about 400 people have sued the university for failing to arrest Strauss, even though students had approached university officials as early as 1979. Many men reported being groped during the examinations.
Strauss died in 2005. No one publicly defended him after the allegations came to light.
Registration for the individual establishment program is open for the next four months. According to Representative Benjamin Johnson of Ohio, it will be led by the same person who oversaw previous settlements on the issue.
Through the program, Ohio State is continuing its efforts to reconcile with itself and its former students and alumni who were affected by Strauss and to engage them in the healing process, said Michael Carpenter, an attorney representing Ohio State, in a statement.
There is no word on how the plans for the supplemental billing program came about or why it is being proposed now, and Johnson said he could not provide that information.
An investigation by a law firm on behalf of the school found that Strauss’ sexual misconduct, under the guise of medical care, spanned his two decades at the school and his work for various sports teams, the student health center and his off-campus clinic.
Last month, 23 new plaintiffs sued Ohio State, including the first woman to sue Strauss. The unnamed plaintiff, who attended Ohio State from 1994 to 1998, alleges that Strauss once excessively groped her during an exam.
The individual settlement program does not include these new plaintiffs, Johnson said.
But Richard Schulte, an attorney for the plaintiffs in those cases and for the plaintiffs who previously reached a settlement, said he believes the university wants to satisfy everyone who has been harmed by Dr. Strauss.
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