Michigan State University has reached a settlement with the attorneys for hundreds of women who say they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, a former gymnastics team doctor at the school.
The university will pay $500 million to the victims of Nassar’s abuse. The majority of that money, $425 million, will be divided among the 322 claimants who are currently suing the school, while $75 million will be set aside for victims who come forward in the future.
It’s believed to be the largest ever settlement involving a university embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal.
According to the suits, Nassar, a former Olympic doctor, abused female patients, many of them underage, for more than two decades. The other defendants include multiple organizations — such as USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee — that the victims say could have taken steps to end the abuse, but didn’t.
Michigan State’s board of trustees has agreed to the settlement in principle. Though the agreement allocates a significant amount of money to the victims, it does not mandate that the school change its policies or acknowledge the claims the women have made against the university, ESPN reported.
“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,” the board said in a statement signed by chairman Brain Bresli.
“We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention. A successful resolution to the litigation is a positive step in moving us all forward. We will continue working as a Board to address the necessary changes and improvements that are needed at our university,” the statement continued, per WILX.
Rachael Denhollander, who publicly accused accused Nassar of sexual abuse more than a year and a half ago — thus becoming the first woman to do so — said she was glad a settlement has been reached, but at the same time was “disappointed” by the lack of policy changes.
“I’m very happy that we’re done with litigation,” Denhollander said. “I’m very grateful for the historic number that acknowledges some of the hardships that these women have suffered. I’m also very disappointed in a missed opportunity to create meaningful policy changes.”
Lawyers for both sides met earlier this week in California in an attempt to reach a settlement, according to ESPN.
And with their meeting apparently having been successful, attorneys seemed pleased with the results.
“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, an attorney for the victims. “We appreciate the diligent efforts of Mick Grewal and the survivors’ attorneys across the nation who worked to obtain this measure of justice and healing.”
“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,” he added.
Robert Young, the special counsel to MSU, said the school “is pleased” to have reached a “fair” settlement.
“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,” Young said. “We appreciate the hard work both sides put into the mediation, and the efforts of the mediator, which achieved a result that is responsible and equitable.”
Nassar, meanwhile, has been serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted on child pornography charges. He has also been sentenced to 175 years in state prison.
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