- Survivors of sexual abuse by a former University of Michigan athletics doctor would have a new window outside the statute of limitations to sue the institution under new proposed state legislation.
- These students, who have reported assaults by the late Dr. Robert Anderson — who the university employed from the late 1960s until his retirement in 2003 — would have a 30-day window in which to file lawsuits, regardless of when they were abused.
- The legislation would also prevent U of Michigan from claiming governmental immunity, which shields public institutions from legal complaints.
This is at least the second time the legislature would move to retroactively allow sexual assault survivors to sue over a college medical professional's misconduct.
The state passed similar legislation in 2018 that gave those abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University doctor, a 90-day period in which to file lawsuits outside the statute of limitations. Legislative efforts to take away Michigan State's governmental immunity in these lawsuits failed, however.
Nassar, who was convicted of sex crimes and is imprisoned, sexually assaulted hundreds of women at Michigan State and with the USA Gymanastics team. The university settled with those he abused for $500 million, at the time a record amount that eclipsed even the more than $100 million payout to survivors of sexual abuse by Penn State University's former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The issue of campus sexual assault has become more prominent as recent scandals, such as one at Lousiana State University, have arisen.
At the federal level, the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance on Title IX, the law forbidding sex-based discrimination in educational settings. It issued a regulation that sexual assault survivor activists say dissuades sexual assault reporting and licenses colleges to ignore such cases. The Biden administration intends to replace that regulation and publish its own draft rule on Title IX in April.
In Michigan, the sponsor of the new legislation, state Sen. Tom Barrett, a Republican, said in a statement that lawmakers must afford Anderson's victims "the same opportunity to seek justice against the university" that they did Nassar's.
Barrett did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Anderson is thought to have sexually abused about 1,000 students over the course of his 37-year tenure. A university-commissioned investigation by law firm WilmerHale found he engaged in sexual misconduct "on countless occasions."
A U of Michigan spokesperson declined to comment on the proposed legislation.