Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder called for reviving committee hearings on a bill allowing victims of former Ohio State physician Richard Strauss to sue the university Monday morning, and by the afternoon, the House Civil Justice Committee had included a hearing on the bill in committee Tuesday.
However, the hearing has been delayed, and it is not immediately clear when it will occur.
In a written statement Monday, Householder expressed frustration with both the stalling of House Bill 249 — which hasn’t had a hearing since September— and with the university.
“I am disappointed that The Ohio State University has yet to accept responsibility for the obvious harm that was done to students under their watch,” Householder said in the statement. “While these young people were all adults, families still trust that our state institutions are providing a reasonable level of security for their children while they are away at school.”
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Brett Hillyer, would waive the statute of limitations for Strauss victims to take legal action against the university. The current statute of limitations — the window of time for filing lawsuits — in Ohio for civil sexual assault cases is two years.
“This bill will allow victims who have carried the shame and trauma of abuse for decades to have their day in court,” Hillyer said in a press conference announcing the bill this past June. “Furthermore, this legislation will provide victims with the opportunity to seek the justice that they were denied as students.”
Strauss was a team doctor for 17 men’s varsity sports and physician at the Student Wellness Center at Ohio State from 1978 to ’98, during which time he abused at least 177 students and student-athletes, according to a report released in May following an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP. The investigation also found that Ohio State failed to act on Strauss’ abuse at the time.
Ohio State’s latest count, according to a university press release, includes nearly 1,500 instances of Strauss-related abuse.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
“Ohio State has led the effort to investigate and expose Richard Strauss’ abuse and the university’s failure at the time to adequately respond to or prevent it, and we are committed to reaching a monetary resolution as soon as possible, which we are actively pursuing through the mediation process that is underway in federal court,” university spokesperson Ben Johnson said in a email.
There are currently 17 Strauss-related lawsuits filed against the university, Johnson said in the email. Judge Michael H. Watson named Judge Michael R. Barrett as mediator in the cases in March 2019, according to previous Lantern reporting, but there have been no resolutions.
Householder previously expressed hope that the Strauss cases could be settled without legislation.
“We wish Ohio State would step up and take care of their obligation,” Householder said in a statement in November. “The only thing I know is it would appear to me there was negligence involved, and I would like to see Ohio State step up and do the right thing.”
In his current statement, however, Householder said he was interested in voting on HB 249 in the coming weeks.
“Our patience is wearing thin,” Householder said in the statement. “We expected Ohio’s flagship state university to step up by now and do the right thing for students that parents placed in their care.”
Update: This story was updated with the House Civil Justice Committee hearing information at 5:47 p.m.