Survivors of Larry Nassar abuse reach $500m settlement

Michigan State announced settlement after worse sex abuse case in US sport history

Erin Blayer, a victim of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar speaks during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

Erin Blayer, a victim of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar speaks during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

 

Michigan State University announced on Wednesday a $500m settlement with more than 300 women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by the disgraced physician Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in US sports history.

The university has agreed to pay $425m to current claimants with $75m set aside in a trust fund for future claims following private mediated negotiations between MSU and lawyers for the 332 victims.

The settlement only pertains to accusations against Michigan State, where Nassar taught and practiced medicine from 1997 until 2016 and where much of the abuse took place. It does not extend to pending civil suits against the individuals and institutions that allegedly enabled or were negligent in preventing Nassar’s abuse, including USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee, Twistars Gymnastics Club and gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.

“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,” lead attorney John Manly said in a statement.

He added: “It is the sincere hope of all of the survivors that the legacy of this settlement will be far reaching institutional reform that will end the threat of sexual assault in sports, schools and throughout our society.”

Michigan State has been accused of failing to properly investigate complaints about Nassar through the years to coaches, counselors, police and university-employed trainers, some of which allegedly dated back to the 1990s. Outcry over the case prompted the resignation of university president Lou Anna Simon and the abrupt retirement of athletic director Mark Hollis.

“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 in a series of trials to molesting women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. He was also found to have possessed child abuse images and is serving what is effectively a life sentence in prison.

A 2014 investigation conducted by Michigan State cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations. The doctor continued to treat athletes on campus for 16 months while university police conducted a criminal investigation that ended with the local prosecutor declining to bring charges.

Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette has appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate who at the university knew what, when they knew it and what they did about it.

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to come forward publicly with accusations of Nassar, with co-accuser Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, disclosing her identity months later.

Over time hundreds more were encouraged to break their silence, among them household names like Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.

ESPN announced on Wednesday the hundreds of survivors of Nassar’s abuse will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2018 ESPY awards. Past winners of the honor include Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Billie Jean King. Last year, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver was honored posthumously. – Guardian service

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