MSU reaches $500M settlement with Nassar victims
East Lansing — Michigan State University has reached a $500 million settlement with 332 women and girls who said they were assaulted by disgraced former MSU sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, according to a statement released by the women’s attorneys on Wednesday.
Following several rounds of mediation, the announced settlement requires MSU to pay $425 million to current claimants and $75 million toward a trust fund for any future claimants.
The MSU board of trustees agreed to a settlement via conference call Tuesday night, according to the release.
MSU Trustee Brian Breslin addressed the settlement in a statement posted on the university website Wednesday morning:
“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,” he said.
“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 agreement is one of the largest sexual assault settlements in history, far eclipsing the agreement Penn State University reached with victims in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. Penn State’s agreement was reached with 33 victims, whereas MSU had nearly 10 times more plaintiffs.
Lawsuits from victims of Sandusky ended up costing $109 million in settlements. The former Nittany Lions football coach is serving 30-60 years in prison for the sexual abuse of boys.
John Manly, one of the lawyers representing the more than 300 women and girls involved in the MSU lawsuit, said the historic settlement was because of women who “had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced.”
“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,” Manly said in a statement.
Robert Young Jr., special counsel to MSU who represented the university during mediation talks, said MSU is pleased to have reached a “fair” agreement.
“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,” read a statement from the former Michigan Supreme Court Justice whom interim MSU President John Engler appointed in February.
The settlement, which includes no confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, does not address additional claims against John Geddert, Gedderts’ Twistars USA, USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee, or Bela and Martha Karolyi, the release said.
The first civil lawsuits were filed in January 2017 against MSU, Nassar and other institutions such as USA Gymnastics and Gedderts’ Twistars USA, a Lansing-area gymnastics club. The earliest suits were filed by a handful of Nassar accusers but have since multiplied.
Other defendants in the federal lawsuits included the Board of Trustees and a number of current and former MSU employees: Kathie Klages, William Strampel, Dr. Douglas Dietzel, Dr. Jefrey Kovan, Dr. Brooke Lemmen and Kristine Moore.
In early January, just before more than 150 women and girls testified about Nassar’s sexual abuse, MSU filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits. Their arguments: MSU is a governmental entity and immune to being sued, and the statute of limitations had expired on many claims.
Nassar, who served as an MSU, U.S. National Women’s Gymnastics Team and U.S. Olympic team doctor for two decades, pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan state courts. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges and up to 175 years by state courts on sex abuse charges.
Heading into mediation, parties on both sides had expressed confidence in the new mediator, Layn Phillips, a former U.S. attorney and a former federal judge in Oklahoma with a respected reputation of bringing parties to resolution.