The Ohio State University finalized a $40.9 million settlement with 162 survivors of sexual abuse by former university doctor Richard Strauss.
A settlement was first reached in March to resolve lawsuits that comprised almost half of those who filed lawsuits against the university. No monetary terms were shared at the time.
On May 8, the university announced in a news release the parties agreed to finalized monetary terms for 12 lawsuits.
Strauss was employed by the university from 1978 to 1998. An Ohio State crime report found he perpetrated almost 1,500 abuse incidents in the time he was employed at the university, including 1,429 incidents of fondling and 47 incidents of rape, with survivors enduring recurring abuse.
A May 2019 independent investigation into the allegations found at least 177 former students were abused by Strauss over 20 years, and the university administration failed to appropriately respond. The number of survivors involved in the lawsuits suggests more students may have been affected.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
OSU is continuing mediation with remaining plaintiffs, the release said.
“The university of decades ago failed these individuals – our students, alumni and members of the Buckeye community,” said President Michael V. Drake in the release. “Nothing can undo the wrongs of the past, but we must do what we can today to work toward restorative justice.”
Settlement amounts received by survivors will vary by individual, based on harm experienced.
Under the agreement, all of the participating plaintiffs will dismiss their claims against Ohio State, the release said.
“Working with Ohio State, we established an independent confidential process to evaluate each claim individually,” said Rick Schulte, lead negotiator for the plaintiffs’ firms, in the release. “The process will account for wide variations in abuse and provide a pathway for survivor healing. One hundred percent of 162 survivors in this settlement decided against further litigation and agreed to participate. The participation rate speaks to the quality of this settlement.”
A special master, not affiliated with the university and experienced in the area of sexual trauma claim evaluation, will oversee the settlement process, the release said. A three-person panel selected by Ohio State, plaintiffs’ counsel and the special master will assist in the evaluation.
Ohio State will also pay $500,000 to fund the costs of administering the fund, for which no taxpayer, tuition or restricted donor funds will be used.
“The process of administering these settlement funds must occur without university input,” said Katherine Lasher, associate vice president for institutional equity and member of the university’s national task force on sexual abuse, in the release. “Instances of large-scale sexual abuse are, tragically, far too prevalent across our national landscape. Ohio State is dedicated to an independent approach that has proven to be effective and impartial.”