Richard Strauss, a former wrestling team physician and an assistant professor of medicine, abused at least 177 students and student-athletes during his time as team doctor and physician, according to an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP. Credit: Lantern file photo

Ohio State settled 11 of 18 lawsuits brought by victims of former university physician and team doctor Richard Strauss’ sexual abuse, the university announced Friday.

The settlement represents nearly half of the people who have brought Strauss-related claims against the university, according to an Ohio State press release.

“Strauss’ conduct was reprehensible, and the university’s failures at the time are completely unacceptable,” University President Michael V. Drake said in the release. “While nothing can undo what happened here years ago, today’s university has a responsibility to support our former students and alumni, and this initial settlement is another important step in the process of restorative justice.”

According to an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP, Strauss abused at least 177 students and student-athletes 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. There are currently at least 18 lawsuits representing at least 350 victims.

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

The suits were settled during confidential mediation, which began in January 2019 and funds will be allocated individually “based on the harm and damages experienced by each survivor,” according to the release. The funds will come from “existing institutional discretionary funding,” and will not include any taxpayer, tuition or donor funds. The university did not release details about the amount of money it will pay or the number of plaintiffs involved in the settlement.

University spokesperson Ben Johnson said in an email that the mediator has “instructed that we not share additional details at this time.”

For comparison, Michigan State settled with the 332 sexual abuse victims of former university physician Larry Nassar for $500 million in May 2018.

Rick Schulte, lead negotiator for the plaintiffs’ firms, said in the release that after extensive negotiations the settlement will allow the victims to “move forward with the healing process.”

“The bravery of our clients is humbling. We are pleased that Ohio State stepped forward and did the right thing,” Schulte said.

In a statement on behalf of the class action group that represents Brian Garrett and nearly 90 others who did not settle Friday, attorney Steve Estey said that they were glad to see that Ohio State settled with individuals who “valued their claims differently” than others in the case. 

“We will continue to insist on full compensation for our clients, who suffered extreme physical sexual abuse and life altering trauma,” the statement reads. “As the only group that has filed a class action lawsuit, we also will act to ensure that OSU victims who are not ready to come forward yet will also be compensated in a settlement, and that institutional change is implemented so this never happens again.”

In February, the Ohio State Board of Trustees unanimously authorized Board Chairman Gary Heminger to approve settlements between the university and sexual assault victims of former university physician and team doctor Strauss on behalf of the full Board.

The resolution came two days after four law firms representing victims of Strauss wrote a letter to United States Southern District Court Judge Michael Watson, requesting lawsuits against the university continue. The letter said the mediation effort with the university has “run its course.”

Further details will be available as the legal process moves forward, the release said.

Anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct at Ohio State is encouraged to report to the Office of Institutional Equity, the university’s anonymous reporting service or law enforcement.

Updated at 4:47 p.m.