Michigan State and Nassar sex-abuse victims reach $500M settlement

Michigan State University has reached a $500-million settlement with hundreds of women and girls who say they were sexually assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history.

Deal was announced Wednesday by university and lawyers for 332 victims

Dr. Larry Nassar is seen at a court appearance in Lansing, Mich., in November 2017. Michigan State University has reached a deal with hundreds of women and girls who say they were sexually assaulted by Nassar. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

Michigan State University on Wednesday announced a $500-million settlement with more than 300 women and girls who
said they were assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history.

The deal surpasses the more than $109 million that Penn State University paid to settle claims by at least 35 people that
assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused boys, though the Nassar settlement involves far more victims.

"We are truly sorry to all the survivors and their families for what they have been through, and we admire the courage it has taken to tell their stories," said Brian Breslin, chairman of Michigan State's governing board. "We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention."

Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Ky., who in 2016 was the first woman to publicly identify herself as a victim, said the agreement "reflects the incredible damage which took place on MSU's campus." But she said she still has not seen any "meaningful reform" at the university.

Michigan State and lawyers for 332 victims announced the deal after negotiating privately with the help of a mediator. Under the agreement, $425 million would be paid to current claimants and $75 million would be set aside for any future claims.

The statement doesn't indicate how much money each victim would receive. It also doesn't say how Michigan State will pay the bill.

Olympic gold medallist Aly Raisman gives a victim impact statement during Nassar's sentencing hearing. (Dale G. Young/Associated Press)

Michigan State was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints about Nassar, some as far back as the 1990s. The school had insisted that no one covered up assaults, although Nassar's boss, former medical school dean William Strampel, was later charged with failing to properly supervise him and committing his own sexual misconduct.

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise that it was treatment. He was also found to have child pornography and is serving prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

Gymnast Sterling Riethman gives her victim impact statement during the seventh day of Nassar's sentencing hearing. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

He treated campus athletes and scores of young gymnasts at his Michigan State office. He had an international reputation while working at the same time for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

More than 250 women and girls gave statements in court when Nassar was sentenced in January and February. Since that time, even more accusers have stepped forward, which accounts for the larger number of people covered by the Michigan State agreement.

Nassar's assaults were mostly committed in Michigan at his Lansing-area home, campus clinic and area gyms. But his accusers also said he molested them at a gymnastics-training ranch in Texas and at national and international competitions. Nassar's work far away from campus was spelled out in his employment contract with Michigan State.

During the sentencing hearings, many accusers described an ultra-competitive gymnastics culture in which authority figures could not be questioned and Nassar was free to abuse young patients year after year. They said they had little choice to see doctors other than Nassar, who was renowned throughout the sport.

Olympic gold medallists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney say they were among Nassar's victims. Other cases involved participants in soccer, figure skating, rowing, softball, cheerleading, wrestling, diving, dance and track and field.

"This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced," said lead attorney John Manly.

The deal applies only to Michigan State. Lawsuits still are pending against Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and an elite gymnastics club in the Lansing area where assaults occurred.