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UM to face dozens of lawsuits by sexual assault victims, lawyers say

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

When Allan Goode went to see the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson at the University of Michigan during the 1970s, the physician allegedly sexually assaulted him using a vibrating device, according to a legal notice filed this week.

On other occasions, Anderson allegedly asked Goode to sit in the dark with a lamp shining on parts of his body after alleged assaults, the notice said.

Dr. Robert E. Anderson

Goode thought it was medical treatment, but it was part of a pattern of Anderson's alleged abuse and perhaps one of the darkest allegations to emerge against the former doctor, said Okemos-based lawyer Mick Grewal. 

"It's completely atrocious," Grewal said. "I can't believe a medical professional would do that. But it didn't happen to just one person. It happened to other survivors."

Goode's allegations are among more than 100 lawsuits that are expected to be filed against UM in connection with the alleged sexual abuse by Anderson, who served as the director of University Health Service and UM Athletic Department from 1968-2003. He died in 2008.

More:Former University of Michigan team doctor investigated for multiple sex abuse complaints

Lawyers, who also represented victims of Larry Nassar and landed a $500 million settlement, have filed 20 notices in the Michigan Court of Claims to sue UM, the Board of Regents and the estate of Anderson. 

The legal notices also note they intend to name several other UM officials in forthcoming lawsuits, including UM Athletic Director Warde Manuel, assistant Athletic Director Paul Schmidt, former UM associate director of students Thomas Easthope and former UM Athletic Director Dave Brandon.

The remaining 80 notices to sue are forthcoming and include alleged victims who were professional and collegiate football players, wrestlers, golfers, hockey players, pilots and others.

Among the first batch of claims are two former star UM football players who allege Schmidt was aware of  Anderson's alleged behavior, along with an athletic trainer.

Also, for the first time, two women have alleged that Anderson sexually assaulted them.

“We have credible evidence that the University of Michigan received complaints regarding Dr. Anderson and failed to properly investigate, discipline and sanction Dr. Anderson for his abusive and harassing conduct," said California-based lawyer John Manly. 

"The University of Michigan has an obligation, under Title IX and other federal and state laws, to protect students and others from sexual harassment and sexual assault. It failed. Multiple times. The University and its Regents must be held accountable.”

University of Michigan officials did not directly address the new allegations Friday.

"The university has confidence in the independent investigation now underway by the WilmerHale law firm," UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said. "This firm has deep expertise to conduct a thorough and unflinching review of the facts — wherever they may lead." 

Fitzgerald added there have been 257 unique complaints regarding Anderson as of April 23; most through the established hotlinethat UM set up in response to the allegations. 

UM has also apologized to victims and offered free counseling.

The university has also reached out to 7,000 former students athletes enrolled at the university during Anderson's tenure and asking them to speak with outside investigators if they were sexually abused by him, or know anything pertinent to an investigation of his conduct and the university's response, "to better prevent abuse from happening in the future."

But alleged victims of Anderson deserve more, said Grand Rapids-based lawyer Steve Drew.

“The filing of these notices are but one step in protecting our clients' rights," Drew said. "Sexual assault survivors deserve to have their rights protected. It is unconscionable that the University of Michigan did not protect them when they could and should have.”

Anderson has been accused of sexual assault during medical treatment by scores of men, including high-profile individuals, such as former Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat and UM Regent Chair Ron Weiser.

Dozens of other victims also have sued UM in federal court, including athletes represented by former Attorney General Mike Cox and one suit that seeks certification as class-action.

The team of lawyers representing the Nassar victims has filed notice of intent to sue because it is the proper way to sue a government agency, Grewal said. They were filed in recent days but were delayed because the coronavirus has shut down most of public life, including courts.

They were announced Friday because the lawyers wanted to show "survivors know they are not alone," Grewal said.   

"(We) wanted to show how our investigation has started revealing information on who knew what and when as we fight for transparency and accountability," Grewal said. 

Among the claims is one from Robert Julian Stone, the first to publicly accuse Anderson of sexual assault in February. He alleged that he saw Anderson in 1971, and the doctor dropped his pants, began demonstrating on himself how to look for signs of a sexually transmitted disease, then reached for Stone’s hand and placed it on his genitals.

His story pushed into the public domain an 18-month investigation by UM and opened up a floodgate of other claims from men who said the former doctor allegedly included other forms of abuse including unnecessary hernia and prostate exams.

In the recently filed claims,other men alleged that Anderson assaulted them and Schmidt allegedly knew about his tactics.

Schmidt was previously named in a lawsuit filed last month by former Attorney General Mike Cox representing a victim who alleged that the current UM employee laughing and told him to "get use to that" after he was abused. Schmidt said then that he had no knowledge of the assaults.

New claims allege Schmidt was aware of other alleged situations. Schmidt did not immediately respond to phone and email messages.

Two former U of M star football players, identified as John B 27 Doe and John B 28 Doe support allegations that Schmidt, who is still employed at UM, and a trainer described as "Murph" knew about Anderson’s abuse, failed to stop it and even joked about it.

Though it was not in the legal document, the alleged victims were quoted in a press release.

“It was always just, like hey, go see Dr. A," John B 27 Doe said.  "Go drop your drawers. I specifically remember Schmidty’s laugh about it. Like I can see him doing it. Murph was a little more quiet. I definitely remember Schmidty laughin’ and cacklin’ about it.”

John B 28 Doe added: “We would come in and Schmidty would tell us: ‘go on in there and go drop ya drawers.’ It was a running joke because they’d be laughing, him and Murph — and the other trainers. They’d be laughing at us having to go back there to Dr. A to drop our drawers."

"It was (expletive) because they’re sitting there laughing and we have to go in and drop our drawers," John B 28 Doe said. "Now that you tell me what’s going on and I’m researching, I’m like oh wow, this (expletive) is crazy. I can’t believe we were put in harm’s way.”

Jane B13 Doe, a UM student on the volleyball team, saw Anderson in 1982 and he "unnecessarily" fondled her breasts during a mandatory sports physical, according to the legal notice. 

Another claim was filed by Jane A7 Doe.

"In approximately 1983, at an appointment Anderson required Ms. Doe to undress in front of him, fully exposed her breasts while performing an alleged breast exam, and touched her genitals while performing an alleged pelvic exam," the legal notice said. 

Grewal said UM "failed to protect (victims), failed to stop an alleged serial predator."

"The pattern is the same," Grewal said.

"Over the last four decades, multiple employees at the university, including assistant AD Paul Schmidt, could have stopped Anderson but either neglected or chose not to do so, and Athletic Director Warde Manuel clearly attempted to cover this up by sending it to the university lawyers instead of to the proper authorities and Title IX office.

"The toxic culture of accepting sexual abuse as something athletes and patients should 'get used to' must stop."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com