Judge rules ‘U’ cannot contact potential victims in Anderson case

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - 5:30pm

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Kelsey Pease/Daily

Victoria A. Roberts, U.S. Eastern District Court of Michigan Judge, ruled during a conference Tuesday that the University of Michigan cannot reach out to former doctor Robert Anderson’s potential victims, according to Mlive.

In February 2018, former University student-athlete Tad Deluca’s complaint launched an investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct of Anderson. 

In April, the University reached out to over 6,800 former student athletes regarding the alleged sexual misconduct. Since then, the University has worked to set up a hotline number for victims, a University police department investigation and an independent investigation through the WilmerHale law firm. 

On June 16, the University began reaching out to more than 300,000 former students who were on campus during Anderson’s tenure from the mid 1960s to the early 2000s. 

According to MLive, Roberts questioned representatives from Jones Day PLLC, the law firm representing the University, about how the investigation at WilmerHale fit into the University’s goal of resolving the case during the conference. Lead attorney Stephan Cowan said the goal of the outreach was to present a chance for survivors to come forward. 

“It may well be the case that (UM) is trying to encourage survivors to come forward, as you say, and perhaps put an end to any potential litigation, but there’s probably a fair number in the group of people who WilmerHale has contacted who are represented by counsel,” Roberts said. 

Annika Martin, interim class counsel for Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP — one of the firms representing Anderson’s alleged victims — issued a statement to The Daily regarding the court order Wednesday afternoon.

“We appreciate that the Court’s order will help ensure that all of Dr. Anderson’s victims are treated fairly and respectfully without interference from the University of Michigan -- the very entity that harbored and protected their abuser for decades,” Martin said. “We have said from day one that only a transparent process overseen by the court will truly hold UM accountable and ensure victims are treated compassionately and compensated fairly. UM’s plans to conduct its program in secret, and collect information from victims who are in active litigation against it, would only serve to help UM sweep this under the rug, preventing the truth from coming to light. We will fight so that every survivor has an opportunity to obtain justice and create lasting change at UM to prevent this type of abuse from ever occurring again.”

In a recent letter to the University community, University President Mark Schlissel encouraged survivors of the alleged sexual misconduct to come forward and emphasized the confidentiality agreements the University has with WilmerHale. 

“Safeguarding the confidentiality of Dr. Anderson’s former patients is of paramount importance,” Schlissel said. “Accordingly, WilmerHale will not disclose any identifying or confidential patient information to the university, and the identity and confidentiality of Dr. Anderson’s patients will be protected from disclosure to others to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

According to MLive, mediation is set to begin on the case in September. 

Summer News Editor Sarah Payne can be reached at paynesm@umich.edu.