After more than a year of mediation, some victims of former Ohio State physician Richard Strauss will be able to pursue litigation against the university for knowing of Strauss’ sexual abuse and failing to stop it.
Judge Michael Watson partially lifted the mediation stay — which allows the court to continue a case schedule — Friday after being contacted by the mediator of more than 10 lawsuits. To continue litigation, plaintiffs must file a single complaint per attorney group, which can include plaintiffs from lawsuits that were settled who do not wish to settle.
The move to allow litigation comes after the university announced March 6 that 11 of 18 Strauss-related lawsuits against the university would be settled. The settlements represent about half of more than 350 men who filed complaints.
“The remainder of Plaintiffs have voiced frustration with the mediation process and have asked this Court to reinstate a case schedule,” the order states. “Until recently, however, the Court had not received word from the mediator that the situation warranted parallel mediation and litigation efforts.”
Strauss was the team doctor for 17 varsity sports and a physician at the university’s Student Wellness Center from 1978-98. In May 2019, an independent investigation found that Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students and student-athletes during his tenure and that Ohio State failed to act.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
Attorney Rex Sharp, who represents some of the plaintiffs, said in a statement the order was a “positive development.”
“Our clients filed a suit, and look forward to their day in court to hold OSU accountable for its deliberate indifference to the sex abuse that changed their lives forever,” he said.
In the past, the university has called Strauss’ behavior reprehensible and has said that it is committed to “monetary resolution,” but the university does not have further comment at this time, university spokesperson Ben Johnson said.
Victims represented in the settled cases who wish to continue litigation are allowed to but must file a single new complaint per each group of attorneys, the order states.
“The goal of this Order is to reduce the amount of non-settling cases to, at most, one by each group of attorneys,” the order states.
Non-settling cases will proceed simultaneously with mediation and litigation, the order said. The amended complaints must be filed within 21 days of the order.
This story was updated at 3:07 p.m. with comment from Rex Sharp and at 3:42 p.m. with Ohio State’s response.