UM faces more lawsuits over sex abuse allegations

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan faces a growing number of lawsuits alleging the school failed to protect students from sexual abuse by the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson. 

Dr. Robert E. Anderson

Eight lawsuits were filed Thursday against UM, the day after the first federal complaint against the university was filed by a former wrestler who alleges school officials knew Anderson had abused patients but allowed him to continue treating students as an athletic team physician. 

"UM is responsible for Plaintiff’s damages stemming from Anderson’s sexual assaults on UM’s campus, as UM placed vulnerable student athletes, like Plaintiff, in Anderson’s care despite knowing he was a sexual predator," according to the suits, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit by the Mike Cox Law Firm and the Shea Law Firm in Southfield.

Anderson, who died in 2008, worked for the university from 1968 to 2003, first as the director of the University Health Service and then as team physician for the UM Athletic Department.

The lawsuits say UM fired him in 1979 after receiving several complaints about Anderson, then moved the doctor to the Athletic Department.

"As physician for the Athletic Department, Anderson continued sexually assaulting male student athletes until he retired in 2003, many of whom were attending on scholarship playing for UM’s football, wrestling, and hockey teams," according to the lawsuits.

"To UM, the Athletic Department became the perfect place to hide Dr. Anderson’s past, present, and future sexual abuse of young men from public disclosure," said one of the lawsuits. "The fact Dr. Anderson was given free rein to abuse hundreds of male athletes with impunity was, in the end, a calculated risk worth taking by Defendants for the greater good of UM."

Responding to the lawsuits, UM spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said, "We share the same goal of gathering all the facts, including understanding the full scope of the harm caused by Dr. Robert E. Anderson and the institutional failings of the university." 

"We have committed to publicly share the independent firm's report," Broekhuizen said. "For there to be a transparent reckoning of the full history, we again encourage all witnesses and former patients to come forward and share their stories."

She added that university is offering counseling services to anyone affected by Anderson. 

"We are partnering with Presidium, a national firm with extensive experience facilitating confidential and sensitive support services. No contact with the university will be required in order to access the services," she said.