Michigan State University has agreed in principle to pay $500 million to settle claims by hundreds of women and girls who say disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar abused them.
Under the terms of the agreement, the school will pay $425 million to those 332 current claimants, with $75 million set aside in a trust fund for any future claimants who allege sexual abuse by Nassar.
Before the agreement is final, the claimants must approve the agreement and a judge must sign off on it, according to a lawyer representing several dozen young women.
Nassar worked for around two decades at Michigan State University and with USA Gymnastics for some three decades.
Gold medalists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney are among those who say Nassar abused them under the guise of medical treatment. Maroney wrote in a victim impact statement that the abuse began when she was around 13 or 14 and didn’t stop until she left the sport years later.
“How could Larry Nassar have been allowed to assault so many women and girls for more than two decades?” she wrote. “The answer to that question lies in the failure of not one, but three major institutions to stop him — with Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee.”
MSU is the only entity that has so far agreed to settle.
In a statement, Brian Breslin, chairman of MSU’s Board of Trustees says the school recognizes “the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention.”
Resolving the litigation, he adds, “is a positive step in moving us all forward.”
White tells NPR the agreement is bringing “a sense of relief.”
“These young women will never be made whole from the abuse that occurred,” White says. “But this is a step in the right direction.”
Nassar will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges. He received two additional sentences amounting to decades behind bars, after admitting to molesting young gymnasts.
While many of the claimants are former MSU athletes, not all of them encountered Nassar at the school.
“Nassar’s tenticles went outside of the university as well,” says White, who adds that MSU failed to act after receiving reports of Nassar’s behavior, allowing him to continue the abuse elsewhere.
White says that Nassar’s MSU’s employment contract said he was paid to do “community outreach. … So Michigan State knowing that these problems existed with Dr. Nassar allowed him and paid him to actually go into the community and wear their colors and wear their badge of honor where he ultimately committed these atrocities.”
Michigan State contends that Nassar was fired in September 2016, less than a month into an investigation following MSU police receiving a report of alleged sexual assault.
But Kate Wells of Michigan Radio reports that the school looked into Nassar’s behavior in 2014 and found it “troubling,” and that it exposed patients to “trauma,” and yet allowed him to continue working.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced earlier this year that the university would be investigated in a bid to uncover “who knew what and when, who took action, who failed to take action.”
MSU says there will be no confidentiality agreements or nondisclosure agreements attached to the settlement.