Michigan State has agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits filed by 332 alleged victims of disgraced former sports physician Larry Nassar, both sides announced Wednesday, ending the university’s involvement in litigation over the former Olympic gymnastics doctor’s rampant sexual abuse of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. It’s the largest amount of money in history settled by a university for a sexual abuse case.
“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,” said John Manly, one of several attorneys representing victims, in a statement. “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.”
Nassar, 54, is serving an effective life sentence in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting nine girls and women in Michigan, as well as to federal child pornography crimes. At his sentencing hearing in January, the emotional testimony of more than 150 girls, women and parents triggered national outrage about the Nassar case, prompting fallout that continues for the organizations through which Nassar accessed his victims.
The settlement will pay $425 million to the 332 girls and women who have come forward to date, averaging about $1.28 million per victim. Michigan State will set aside an additional $75 million in a trust fund for any victims who come forward in the future.
“Michigan State is pleased that we have been able to agree in principle on a settlement that is fair to the survivors of Nassar’s crimes,” said Robert Young, a lawyer for the university.
The settlement applies to only Michigan State. The United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and famed former Olympic coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi all still face lawsuits filed by Nassar victims, who include Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas.
Before 2016, Nassar was a respected longtime Michigan State sports physician and was renowned for his lengthy tenure as the team physician for USA Gymnastics women, where he worked with young gymnasts at the Olympics and other international competitions and national team camps. Signed photos of Olympic gymnasts covered the walls of his office at a campus clinic, where he treated Michigan State athletes as well as young gymnasts, some who traveled from several counties over with their parents in seek of medical treatment from the same doctor who worked with the United States’ Olympic heroes.
But in August 2016, Rachael Denhollander, a Louisville woman, filed a police report accusing Nassar of sexually assaulting her years prior, when she was a teenage gymnast seeking his treatment, and then told her story to the Indianapolis Star. Nassar denied the accusations, but dozens of women across the country, after reading the Star story of Denhollander’s abuse, realized that what they had thought was unusual medical treatment — in which Nassar digitally penetrated them without gloves or warning — was actually sexual assault.
Will Hobson and Cindy Boren, “Michigan State settles with Larry Nassar victims for $500 million“, Washington Post, May 16, 2018; subsequently updated.