Lawsuits Against OSU Regarding Alleged Richard Strauss Abuse Dismissed by Judge

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 22, 2021

FILE - This May 8, 2019, file photo, shows a sign for Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. On Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, a federal judge dismissed remaining lawsuits filed by men who say Ohio State University officials failed to stop decades-old sexual abuse by now-deceased team doctor Richard Strauss. (AP Photo/Angie Wang, File)
AP Photo/Angie Wang, File

Federal court judge Michael H. Watson dismissed the lawsuits Ohio State University was facing regarding how it handled sexual abuse allegations against former doctor Richard Strauss, who died in 2005.

According to Sheridan Hendrix of the Columbus Dispatch, Watson pointed to the expired statute of limitations for sexual abuse allegations when issuing his opinion Wednesday.

While Watson granted Ohio State's motion to close the cases, he wrote it is "beyond dispute" the plaintiffs in the cases "suffered unspeakable sexual abuse by Strauss" and were not protected by those in position to do so at the university.

Hendrix reported 126 of the plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision, and the legal team released a statement: 

"Today's ruling is not only deeply disappointing, but also sends a disturbing message that the very real challenges sexual abuse survivors often face in understanding what has happened to them—and who enabled the abuse they experienced—is irrelevant when they ultimately ask for the court's help in holding abusive people and institutions accountable.
"OSU spent decades denying, hiding, and evading the truth about its role in concealing the abuse that happened on its watch. Today's ruling punishes survivors already traumatized by the university's callous campaign of deception. The court's decision cannot, and must not, be the final word in the survivors' journey towards justice."

These cases were brought to federal court in 2019 after Ohio State announced an investigation in 2018.

"In Ohio, criminal rape charges can be filed up to 20 years in most cases and up to 25 years for certain cases like those involving children," Hendrix wrote. "Adult victims of sexual assault must sue within two years of the attack, and abused children must sue before age 30. The average current age of victims in the Strauss case is 50."

The plaintiffs believed the statute of limitations should have started when the university announced its investigation in the spring of 2018.

In June, Kantele Franko of the Associated Press reported 29 additional men from sports including baseball, lacrosse, cheerleading, soccer, football, basketball, gymnastics and fencing sued Ohio State regarding its failure to stop Strauss.

That brought the total of former students who made such allegations in lawsuits to more than 400. What's more, an investigation conducted for Ohio State determined that some employees were made aware of students' concerns with the doctor as early as 1979.

Ohio State spokesperson Ben Johnson told Hendrix the school continues to pay the cost of counseling and treatment for those affected by Strauss and has reached settlement agreements with more than 230 people.

In May, Dan Murphy of ESPN reported sexual assault survivors from both Ohio State and Michigan partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to create an educational program and provide resources in an effort to help stop abuse in youth sports.

A number of former Michigan Wolverines athletes said former team doctor Robert Anderson sexually abused them.