On January 19, 2022, The University of Michigan announced a settlement of the individual sex abuse claims against sexual predator and university doctor Robert E. Anderson sex abuse claims. The proposed settlement provides $460 million for approximately 1,050 individuals. That fund will be allocated in a process to be set up by the plaintiff lawyers and administered by a special master. The settlement also provides for a $30 million second reversionary fund for anyone else who comes forward.
Lieff Cabraser partner and Abuse Survivors practice group chair Annika K. Martin made the following statement on the announcement. Ms. Martin is Co-Lead Class Counsel representing Anderson survivors and current students in class action lawsuits against UofM seeking damages for the harm caused by past sexual abuse as well as seeking to effect forward-looking institutional change to prevent future sexual misconduct and harassment on campus.
“This agreement is a step in the right direction, although the details of the claims process and allocation will be key to ensuring that all survivors are treated fairly and with compassion — particularly those who have yet to come forward about the abuse they suffered.
“While paying money is a big and important step, UofM will not fully be held accountable until it also commits to institution-wide change to reform the on-campus culture and prevent abuses like this from occurring again.”
Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel filed a class action sexual abuse lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan against the University of Michigan and its Regents for allowing and enabling a University physician, Dr. Robert E. Anderson, to sexually abuse students while employed by the University from 1968 until 2003. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of former student-patients who allege Anderson used his position to repeatedly and regularly sexually assault University students in the guise of providing medical care.
Prior to the filing, Lieff Cabraser investigated reports of sexual misconduct by University of Michigan doctor and athletics program physician Robert E. Anderson occurring over a 35-year period at UofM. The sexual abuse allegations against Anderson were said to be “disturbing and very serious,” according to a press release issued by the University, and include claims of unnecessary and intimate exams by a doctor with unrestricted access to male college athletes over a period of over three decades.
The allegations come in the wake of new legislation enacted in Michigan in 2018 that extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes past their previously narrow limits. Experts note that these kinds of physician-student sexual abuse cases hinge on the doctors’ power and access to the students, and that given the wide power imbalance and shaming relied on by the predatory abuser, it is not uncommon for victims to wait to report the abuse.