'U' motions to dismiss Anderson lawsuits

Friday, May 1, 2020 - 9:28pm

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Courtesy of Claire Hao

In a court filing submitted Friday regarding the sexual misconduct allegations against former University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson, the University admitted the late doctor sexually abused patients. However, the filing also said the victims have no grounds to sue and motioned for the lawsuits to be dismissed.

“The University condemns Anderson’s misconduct,” the filing said. “The University recognizes the harms he caused and is committed to developing a fair, just, timely and efficient resolution process — one that does not require drawn-out litigation.”

One of the justifications behind the motion to dismiss the lawsuits is the three-year limitations period, which limits the time since a crime occurred that the crime can be brought to the court, according to the University’s lawyer. 

“First, it was filed decades too late,” the motion said. “Anderson has been dead for 12 years; he has not been employed by the University for 17 years; and the conduct at issue in Plaintiff’s complaint occurred more than 30 years ago.”

In addition, the University claimed “sovereign immunity” against all claims except those under Title IX, since it is a state university. 

The 38-page filing claims that, should the lawsuit proceed, the University should be dismissed as an “improper defendant.”

“The University does not here question Plaintiff’s claim that Anderson abused him or the harm he suffered as a result,” the filing said. “Indeed, the University stands ready to compensate Plaintiff through a resolution approach it will be developing in the coming months. But the statutes of limitations and sovereign immunity prevent him from recovering damages in court.”

In a press release earlier this week, University President Mark Schlissel and University Regent Ron Weiser (R), chair of the Board of Regents, announced a plan to help victims of Anderson’s assault without involving the court system.

According to Weiser, who publicly admitted he was abused by Anderson when he was a student in the 1960s, the reason behind the extralegal process is to benefit the victims.

“(The purpose is) to provide more certain and faster relief for the former patients of Anderson outside of the court system, while preserving their privacy to the greatest extent possible,” Weiser said.

In an email sent to The Daily accompanying the court filing, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald outlined the process Schlissel and Weiser addressed.

“(The University) stands ready to address the harm he caused through a resolution process that is fair and timely and respects the privacy of those who have suffered,” Fitzgerald wrote. “We believe that such a resolution process — including monetary relief — will be the most efficient and productive way to resolve these matters.”

The University also set up a hotline for victims to report Anderson’s misconduct. The line has since received several hundred calls from people alleging abuse against the doctor.

The allegations against Anderson span from the 1960s to the 1990s. The formal investigation against the doctor was launched in 2018, after an individual wrote to Athletic Director Warde Manuel, accusing Anderson of sexual misconduct during medical examinations when that individual was a student in the 1970s. However, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office declined to pursue charges due to Anderson’s passing in 2008.

The filing concluded with the University requesting its motion granted and the Plaintiff’s complaint dismissed. 

“The University has great sympathy for what Plaintiff suffered,” the filing said. “And the University is committed to developing a process to compensate him and other survivors of Anderson’s abuse. But for the reasons stated above, Plaintiff cannot state a legal claim against the University.”

Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at idobrin@umich.edu.