Bills open window for Anderson victims to sue U of Michigan

David Eggert
Associated Press

Lansing – More than 1,000 sexual abuse victims of a University of Michigan sports doctor would get a window in which they could sue the school for damages under bills that the Legislature will consider.

It is the second time since 2018 that the state might retroactively open a period for lawsuits to proceed if abuse occurred under the guise of medical treatment. Similar legislation was enacted following the conviction of former women’s national gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, who molested hundreds of girls and women, including at Michigan State University.

This composite image shows the University of Michigan Health Service building and a file photo of Dr. Robert E. Anderson.

Under bills announced Tuesday, a 30-day period would be created for victims of the late Dr. Robert Anderson to file a lawsuit regardless of the statute of limitations. The university could not use the government immunity defense.

Staff at the University of Michigan missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career, according to a law firm hired by the school.

The new legislation will be introduced in the state Senate this month. Related but broader state House bills that were introduced last winter have gained no traction since a September committee hearing.

Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett of Charlotte, who is spearheading the latest push, said the school in Ann Arbor has acknowledged the abuse. Many of the victims were student-athletes at the university who were reluctant or scared to come forward because they thought no one would believe them, he said.

“We are obliged to provide a path forward to justice for the victims,” Barrett said, adding they are owed the same opportunity as Nassar victims. Michigan State agreed to a $500 million settlement with Nassar’s victims.

Michigan has been in mediation to resolve lawsuits for more than a year. The legislation could provide victims more certainty and increase pressure on the school for a resolution.

“The Anderson survivors also deserve their day in court to seek justice from the University of Michigan – which harbored, enabled and protected Dr. Anderson for more than 30 years,” said Parker Stinar, a lawyer for roughly 200 victims.