COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed more of the unsettled lawsuits filed by men who say Ohio State University failed to stop sexual abuse decades ago by now-deceased team doctor Richard Strauss.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson’s latest rulings weren’t much of a surprise, given how he'd previously dismissed similar cases for the same reasons. Watson has said it's clear Strauss abused hundreds of young men while Ohio State officials turned a blind eye, but he ruled the legal window for such claims has passed.
“The Court hopes that, notwithstanding the Court’s ruling on the statute of limitations issue and fact that Ohio State’s voluntary settlement program has closed, Ohio State will stand by its promise to ‘do the right thing,’ and continue settlement discussions with Plaintiffs,” Watson wrote Monday.
Asked for comment on that, Ohio State spokesperson Benjamin Johnson said by email that the school is reviewing the judge's newest decisions. The university previously noted it already reached settlements with more than 230 men.
In all, Watson has dismissed unresolved cases brought by more than 300 men. Many of those or their lawyers said they'll appeal.
OSU has repeated a commitment to uncovering the truth of what happened, and has publicly offered apologies for anyone abused by Strauss. The school reached nearly $47 million in settlements with 185 survivors — an average of about $252,000 — and then separately offered plaintiffs in certain remaining lawsuits an individual settlement program that has since ended.
But some of the men whose cases had remained unsettled weren't given an opportunity to mediate their cases or participate in the individual settlements, according to Richard Schulte, an attorney who said he had dozens of clients in that situation.
“We are at a loss to understand why OSU wants to compensate some and exclude others. ... OSU chose to single them out and revictimize them, effectively telling them being raped and molested is worth nothing compared to those who were offered a settlement,” Schulte said by email Monday. “This is a sad day for the OSU Alumni we represent. We are still hopeful OSU will treat them fairly and offer settlement.”
Many of the accusers say they were fondled in medical exams at campus athletic facilities, a student health center, Strauss' home or his off-campus clinic. Students had raised concerns about him with school officials as far back as the late 1970s.
Lawyers for the men have argued most didn’t recognize their experiences as abuse or understand Ohio State’s role in enabling it until after accusations about the doctor first became public in 2018.
Some also have questioned whether Watson had a conflict in handling the case. They unsuccessfully pushed for the judge's recusal after he disclosed that his wife’s business has ties with the university.
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Kantele Franko, The Associated Press