Ohio State University will pay $40.9 million into a fund for 162 victims of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, who worked for the university until the late 1990s has since died.
The university and the plaintiffs in a combined 12 federal lawsuits announced a settlement two months ago, but the total damages in the agreement weren’t revealed until Friday in a filing in U.S. District Court in Columbus.
“The university of decades ago failed these individuals — our students, alumni and members of the Buckeye community,” university President Michael Drake said in a news release. “Nothing can undo the wrongs of the past, but we must do what we can today toward restorative justice.”
How much money each individual will receive is to be determined.
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“Funds in the settlement will be allocated on an individual basis, based on the harm and damages experienced by each survivor,” according to the university’s release.
A “special master” with experience in the area of evaluating sexual-trauma claims who has no connection to Ohio State will oversee the process, with the assistance of a three-person panel selected with input from the university and the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Investigators hired by Ohio State concluded last year that Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students between 1979 and when he retired in 1998, and that university personnel repeatedly failed to act.
Lawsuits filed against the university indicate that the number of victims was much higher. At least 360 plaintiffs have filed 23 lawsuits against the university over Strauss’ abuse and Ohio State’s lack of action.
After his retirement, Strauss moved to California, where he died by suicide in 2005.
Columbus lawyer Scott Smith, who represents 85 plaintiffs in one of the unresolved lawsuits, called the settlement amount “woefully inadequate.”
He said the amount pales in comparison to the $500 million settlement by Michigan State University for 332 victims of Dr. Larry Nassar, who sexually abused female gymnasts at the school. With some money set aside for future claims, that settlement averaged $1.4 million per plaintiff.
“Our clients are no different than those at Michigan State,” Smith said.
In its Friday news release, the university said it “continues to participate in good faith in the mediation process with the survivors involved in the remaining lawsuits, and remains committed to a resolution with the plaintiffs, including a monetary resolution.”
Rick Schulte, a Dayton lawyer who worked as lead negotiator for the plaintiffs, said in the release that the law firms worked with Ohio State to establish “an independent, confidential process to evaluate each claim individually. The process will account for wide variations in abuse and provide a pathway for survivor healing.”
He said all 162 survivors represented in the 12 lawsuits “decided against further litigation. … The participation rate speaks to the quality of the settlement.”
The university’s release said that no taxpayer, tuition or restricted donor funds will be used toward the settlement fund. A university spokesman said he was seeking information about the source of funding for the settlement.
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