Judge dismisses lawsuits against Ohio State over sex abuse cases

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the cases against Ohio State University and a former doctor at the university filed by hundreds of former students who charged they were subjected to sexual abuse by the doctor that was ignored by university officials.

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Judge Michael H. Watson, ruling in the U.S. District Court in Columbus, granted Ohio State’s motion to close the case on the grounds that the two-year statute of limitations had expired, WCMH reported. Watson agreed that it was “beyond dispute” that now-deceased team doctor Richard Strauss had abused hundreds of young men, writing that doctors, athletic directors, coaches and others in positions of power at the university “failed to protect these victims from Strauss’ predation.

“Plaintiffs beseech this court to hold Ohio State accountable, but today, the legal system also fails plaintiffs,” Watson wrote. “Plaintiffs’ pain and suffering is neither questioned nor overlooked by this court; indeed, their claims cry out for a remedy.”

More than 300 men filed cases against Ohio State University, alleging the school ignored complaints of sexual abuse over a 20-year period, from 1979 through 1998, WCMH reported. The plaintiffs were students who attended the school between 1974 and 2000.

The first case against Ohio State University was filed on July 16, 2018, according to WCMH.

Approximately 400 men and one woman had sued the university since then over its failure to stop Strauss, The Associated Press reported. Many of the accusers alleged they were fondled during medical exams at campus athletic facilities, a student health center, at Strauss’ home, an off-campus clinic, or both, according to the AP.

In a statement, Ohio State University acknowledged the abuse by Strauss, who committed suicide at his California home in August 2005.

“Beginning in 2018, Ohio State sought to uncover and acknowledge the truth about Richard Strauss’ abuse and the university’s failure at the time to prevent it,” the statement read. “We are forever grateful to the survivors who participated in the independent Perkins Coie investigation, which could not have been completed without their strength and courage, and we offer our deepest regrets and apologies to all who experienced Strauss’ abuse.

“The university has reached settlement agreements with more than 230 survivors and will continue to cover the cost of professionally certified counseling services and treatment for anyone affected by Strauss.”

Watson wrote that the judiciary did not have the power to help the plaintiffs, shifting the blame to the state legislature.

“At all times since the filing of these cases, the Ohio Legislature had the power, but not the will, to change the statute of limitations for these plaintiffs,” Watson wrote.