Court revives lawsuit against Ohio State over past sex abuse allegations

COLUMBUS, OHIO, UNITED STATES – 07/2021/21: The Ohio State University logo atop Ohio Stadium at sunset on a summer day on the Ohio State University campus . (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A federal appeals court decision on Wednesday revives the unsettled lawsuit against Ohio State University for decades-old sexual abuse by the late team doctor Richard Strauss.

A Columbus district judge had rejected most unsettled cases, acknowledging that hundreds of young men were abused but concurring with the university’s argument that the legal deadline for claims had long passed. The plaintiffs argued that the clock did not start until the allegations came to light in 2018 and that their cases should be allowed to continue.

Two of the three judges on the sixth panel of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals who heard the case concluded on Wednesday decision that the men “plausibly allege a decades-long cover-up” and “correctly allege that they did not know and could not reasonably have known that the State of Ohio harmed them until 2018.”

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“The State of Ohio is a large institution, and the plaintiffs’ allegations underscore how difficult it is for a student to know what the appropriate people within the administration of the State of Ohio knew. on the abuse allegations, Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the ruling.

Lead plaintiff Steve Snyder-Hill said it was a huge decision for survivors, who believed it could influence other cases of sexual misconduct at universities.

“Our lawyer argued that if OSU had gotten away with what they were trying to do here, by having this motion on the statute of limitations thrown out, then they would have paved the way and given a playbook to all these other universities to do the same thing they did, and I’m glad this court saw it through and didn’t let it go,” Snyder-Hill said.

Judge Ralph B. Guy Jr. disagreed with the ruling, writing that the claims deadline passed decades ago and that the court’s ruling “effectively overrides any statute of limitations for Title IX claims.” based on sexual harassment”.

Ohio State is reviewing the decision, university spokesman Benjamin Johnson said via email.

Hundreds of former student-athletes and other alumni say they were abused by Strauss during his two decades at the school, and Ohio state officials failed to stop him despite the knowledge of complaints. Men Strauss alleged abused them during medical examinations, required physical examinations, and other encounters at campus athletic facilities, a student health center, his home, and an off-campus clinic.

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The doctor died in 2005. No one publicly defended him.

The university reiterated its apology for anyone he harmed, and it reached more than $60 million in settlements with at least 296 survivors.

The school sought to dismiss the remaining cases, saying it had no intention of disrespecting the men or their allegations, but that the allegations were made years too late. OSU’s attorney argued that if the doctor’s behavior and Ohio State’s inaction during his tenure were as egregious as claimed, the students knew enough that, legally speaking, they should have started to inquire about possible remedies at the time. .

Wednesday’s ruling said the appeals court could not say whether the plaintiffs’ “snippets of knowledge” should have prompted them to investigate further. This, according to the decision, “is a question of fact – a question which it is inappropriate to resolve at the stage of the motion to dismiss”.

Two groups totaling more than 100 the survivors appealed the dismissal, claiming the two-year window for claims only started in 2018 when men started speaking out and the school hired a law firm to investigate. Until then, most complainants did not acknowledge their experiences as abuse, nor did they know that OSU’s indifference to student concerns allowed the abuse to continue for years, said a men’s advocate during arguments on appeal.

Strauss joined Ohio State in 1978 and served on the faculty and medical staff. He was able to retire in 1998 with emeritus status. school commissioners retired this mark of honor three years ago.

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