The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 people who say they were sexually assaulted by Dr. Robert Anderson during his nearly four-decade career at the school, the university and those involved in the settlement announced Wednesday.
The university said 1,050 people will share in the settlement, which was reached through mediation.
Individuals and their attorneys will determine how to split $460 million, with no input from the university, the school said in a statement. An additional $30 million will be set aside for future claims. The payouts to individuals won’t all be equal and will be determined by a third-party allocator based on several variables.
Jordan Acker, the chair of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, told reporters that the agreement will resolve all survivor claims.
“We must support healing and restoration of trust in an environment where safety is paramount,” Acker said. “This agreement is an important step in that direction.”
Attorney Parker Stinar said the settlement was reached Tuesday night. The university had been in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits by mostly men who said Anderson sexually abused them during routine medical examinations.
“It has been a long and challenging journey, and I believe this settlement will provide justice and healing for the many brave men and women who refused to be silenced,” said Stinar, who represents about 200 victims.
Anderson worked at the university from 1966 until his 2003 retirement and was director of the university’s Health Service and a physician for multiple athletic teams, including football.
A number of football players and other athletes have come forward to accuse Anderson, who died in 2008, of sexually abusing them.
A report by a firm hired by the school determined that staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career.
The university regularly is ranked among the top public universities in the U.S.
“This agreement is a critical step among many the university has taken to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent and address misconduct,” university president Mary Sue Coleman said.
Attorney Mick Grewal, who represents 250 of the 1,050 people, told ESPN’s Dan Murphy that the settlement is “a victory for survivors of sex abuse.”
“It’s another step toward obtaining transparency, accountability and justice,” Grewal said. “It can help change our culture, but it could not have happened without the brave men and women who stepped forward to tell their stories.”
Tad DeLuca, the whistleblower whose letter to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel alleging sexual assault sparked an investigation into Anderson, found no joy in the settlement and said it won’t address deeper issues.
“The settlement is going to gloss things over so Michigan can go back to having a glossy block ‘M’ and look wonderful for the world, but the situation on campus is horrible,” DeLuca said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
The settlement has to be approved by the board which is expected to vote at its February meeting, Acker said. It also has to be approved by 98% of claimants and the court overseeing the suits.
The deal came roughly two weeks after a state senator announced new bipartisan legislation that would retroactively give the accusers a 30-day window to sue the school for damages regardless of legal time limits and bar the university from using the government immunity defense. The bills, which were poised for introduction this week, were promoted as a way to provide the victims more certainty and increase pressure on the school for a resolution.
The deal came just after two men who say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson said they were hoping that a change in leadership with the weekend firing of university President Mark Schlissel would allow the school to be more accountable toward abuse victims.
Keith Moree and Robert Stone told reporters Tuesday that the Ann Arbor school is ripe for a culture change as its board conducts a search to permanently replace Schlissel, who was removed Saturday due to an alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee.”
The settlement with Anderson’s victims is one of several agreed to by universities following sex abuse scandals, including Michigan State University’s agreement to pay $500 million to settle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Larry Nassar, who was a campus sports doctor as well as a doctor for USA Gymnastics.
That settlement, announced in May 2018, was considered the largest at the time, far surpassing the $100 million-plus that Penn State University has paid to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse.
Last year, the University of Southern California agreed to an $852 million settlement with more than 700 women who have accused the college’s longtime campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, of sexual abuse.
ESPN’s Dan Murphy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.