On, May 16, 2018, news broke of a monumental settlement that will require Michigan State University to pay $500 million to victims of Larry Nassar’s sexual assault. $425 million will be distributed to the 332 claimants seeking damages from the University for its failure to act on persistent complaints about the doctor. The remaining $75 million will be set aside for two years in the event that more victims of Nassar’s abuse come forward. The settlement is believed to be the largest ever in a sexual misconduct case involving a university, surpassing the $109 million paid by Penn State University to victims of abuse by Jerry Sandusky.
In February 2018, Nassar was sentenced for up to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of criminal sexual conduct. In his plea, he admitted to sexually abusing young girls and women through the guise of his position as a trusted team doctor. At the sentencing hearings, more than 200 people presented victim impact statements. Nassar is already serving a 60 year sentence after pleading guilty to child pornography chares.
The lawsuit against Michigan State began in January 2017 when 18 women filed suit against the University, USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee (USCO), and Twistars gymnastics group. The suit alleged that Michigan State and the co-defendants ignored complaints from those treated by Nassar, effectively perpetuating the doctor’s abuse of his patients for decades.
In response to the settlement, Rachael Denhollander, the first public accuser of Nassar, said “I’m very happy that we’re done with litigation… I’m very grateful for the historic number that acknowledges some of the hardships that these women have suffered.” Robert Young, special counsel to Michigan State said, “Michigan State is pleased that we have been able to agree in principle on a settlement that is fair to the survivors of Nassar’s crimes… 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.” In addition, Michigan State has begun renovating their policies regarding the administration of claims of sexual assault, including changes to its Title IX policy.
The settlement is exclusive to Michigan State’s role in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs have expressed that they will proceed with the action against USA Gymnastics, the USOC, and Twistars. The victims, led by Denhollander, are also focusing on their push to inspire new legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for accusers of sexual abuse and eliminate sovereign immunity protections from government institutions like universities.