Judge signs off on fund for U-Michigan doctor’s victims

Sep 16, 2022, 4:53 PM | Updated: 4:56 pm
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan ...

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan shows Dr. Robert E. Anderson. Attorneys representing sexual-assault victims of Anderson, a former University of Michigan sports doctor, are asking a judge to approve a settlement fund, a key step in a $490 million deal between the school and more than 1,000 people. (Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan via AP, File)

(Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan via AP, File)

DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Friday signed off on a fund for more than 1,000 people who said they were sexually assaulted by a University of Michigan doctor, an order that allows victims to start collecting a portion of a $490 million settlement negotiated with the school.

“The University of Michigan offers its heartfelt apology for the abuse perpetrated by the late Robert Anderson. We hope this settlement helps the healing process for survivors,” said Paul Brown, chairman of the school’s governing board.

Anderson died in 2008 after working at the university for nearly 40 years. He was director of the campus Health Service and a physician for multiple sports teams, including football.

Former athletes, students and others who had no connection to the university — mostly men — said they were molested by Anderson during routine physicals or other visits.

The settlement was announced in January, but the final details took months to wrap up. The university said the deal recently got approval from 98% of claimants.

“It’s been a long road,” said Richard Schulte, a lead negotiator for Anderson’s victims. “I’m very happy for the survivors and glad I could get it across the finish line.”

The university will have no role in how the money is distributed. Six percent, or $30 million, of the settlement will be set aside for people who step forward later with claims.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts approved creation of the fund and appointed Houston-based Archer Systems LLC as the claims administrator.

“The process is completely confidential, but we’re hopeful distribution should take place this fall,” Schulte said.

The scandal emerged publicly in 2020, two years after Tad DeLuca, a wrestler in the 1970s, made a complaint that triggered a police investigation, though Anderson was long deceased.

That triggered a wave of men who stepped forward to say they, too, had been assaulted by Anderson; some allegations stretched back decades. Lawsuits followed.

The university, meanwhile, hired law firm WilmerHale to conduct an investigation. The results were devastating: Anderson harassed, abused and assaulted patients on “countless occasions” during his 37-year career.

Coaches, trainers and other staff in the athletic department did not question Anderson’s status, despite complaints, rumors and even jokes among athletes about his behavior, according to the report.

The report said complaints were made to athletic director Don Canham and legendary football coach Bo Schembechler but no action was taken. Both are deceased.

Anderson also was certified by the federal government to give physicals to pilots and air traffic controllers in southeastern Michigan, some of whom count themselves as victims.

“We consider this settlement just one of the steps we have taken in a process we began more than two years ago to fully understand what happened, make amends and enact reforms,” Brown said. “Our work is not done until U-M is considered the leader in creating a campus environment that is safe for everyone.”

Not everyone was satisfied. Richard Goldman, a student broadcaster and Anderson victim in the early 1980s, said Schembechler referred him to Canham but the powerful athletic director didn’t intervene.

“Seriously, fake apologies are not accepted,” Goldman said of Brown’s remarks.

The settlement is one of several by universities following sex abuse scandals. Michigan State University paid $500 million to settle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Larry Nassar, a campus sports doctor and a doctor for USA Gymnastics.

___

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Judge signs off on fund for U-Michigan doctor’s victims