After 13 months of mediation, victims of former Ohio State physician Richard Strauss and their attorneys said they have waited long enough.
In a letter Monday, four law firms representing Strauss victims asked United States Southern District Court Judge Michael Watson to allow Strauss victims’ lawsuits against the university to continue. In the letter, the attorneys said an effort for mediation has “run its course.”
“OSU has not participated in the mediation process in good faith,” the letter reads. “Our clients have waited too long for justice.”
There are at least 17 Strauss-related lawsuits filed against the university, Ben Johnson, university spokesperson, said in a previous email. Mediation started in January 2019 and 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.
“We are actively participating in good faith in the mediation process directed by the federal court and remain committed to a fair outcome, including a monetary resolution,” Johnson said.
Dan Ritchie, a Strauss victim, said Ohio State has not been willing to negotiate and is “paying lip service” to the victims.
“They say it out loud, but there’s no action,” he said. “They’ve said that they’ve been actively engaged in mediation. I’ve yet to see that.”
The letter comes two weeks after the revival of hearings for House Bill 249, sponsored by Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Urichsville), which would waive the statute of limitations for Strauss victims. The statute of limitations — the window of time for filing lawsuits — in Ohio for civil sexual assault cases is two years.
Ritchie, who testified before the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee in support of HB 249, said the length of the mediation process has been frustrating.
“When this moves forward, when it flows, you know, our energy is up,” Ritchie said. “When it ebbs, I know it’s affected me and a number of the other guys. It’s such a baggage for us. You get your hopes up that this is actually going to come to an end, but it just keeps going and going.”
Ritchie said the passage of HB 249 will help victims move on, and he said he was frustrated that the bill has stalled in committee. He said that while the state representatives are supposed to represent the people of Ohio, they are instead representing the “institution of Ohio State.”
The letter also references a previous statement Watson made Jan. 17, 2019, in which Watson said he knew former Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Gasser as a “man of his word,” and the Board would not dismiss the survivors. But the letter points out that Gasser resigned this past May.
The letter argues that the university will not accept responsibility for Strauss’ abuse unless it is no longer protected by the statute of limitations. According to an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP, Strauss abused at least 177 men during his time as team doctor and physician from 1978 to ’98. The investigation concluded that Ohio State knew of the abuse and failed to act on it at the time.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
“Our clients deserve an opportunity to be heard,” the letter reads. “They have been psychologically traumatized not only by Strauss’s abuse, but by OSU’s ongoing indifference and betrayal.”
Ritchie said he and the other victims will continue to fight for closure.
“They want to wear us out,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
This story was updated at 12:17 p.m. with quotes from Dan Ritchie.
Correction: The phrase “run their course” was corrected to “run its course” to accurately reflect the phrasing of the letter.