'U' wants new law firm for Anderson case

Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 12:32pm

The University of Michigan wants a new law firm for the sex discrimination case.

The University of Michigan wants a new law firm for the sex discrimination case. Buy this photo
Kelsey Pease/Daily

On Wednesday, the University of Michigan filed a motion to remove Bush Seyferth, the law firm hired to represent the Board of Regents in lawsuits about hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse against the late Robert Anderson, an athletic doctor who worked at the University for decades.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald did not indicate why the University was withdrawing the firm or whether it had hired a new one.

“The University has decided to change counsel in the cases brought by individuals for claims against the University based on allegations of misconduct by Robert Anderson,” Fitzgerald said. 

Bush Seyferth, a firm based in Troy, Michigan, was retained by the University in March 2020 to handle the lawsuits independent of the investigation. This is the second time the University has sought to remove a firm involved with the Anderson cases. 

Steptoe & Johnson was initially hired to handle the Anderson investigation, but they were removed due the firm’s history representing convicted sex offenders. They were replaced in March by WilmerHale, who continues to handle the investigation of the Anderson allegations. 

The motion to remove Bush Seyferth comes less than two weeks after the firm filed motions to dismiss lawsuits against the University regarding allegations against Anderson. The motion claimed there were no grounds to sue under the three-year limitations period because the abuse occurred decades ago.

“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.”

Anderson worked at the University as director of the University Health Services and team doctor for the University Athletic Department from 1968 to 2003. He died in 2008. 

Over 50 former athletes and other students have sued the University since March, alleging the University was responsible for the misconduct by continuing to put students in Anderson’s care, despite being aware of the misconduct. The lawsuits name the Regents as defendants.

While the University has admitted the late doctor sexually abused patients, it seeks to resolve the issues outside of the court system, as announced in a press release last month. Board of Regents chair Ron Weiser, who disclosed he was abused by Anderson as a student in the 1960s, explained the goal of the extralegal process.

“(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. 

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