University of Michigan sued by 53 Dr. Robert Anderson Survivors in a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
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University of Michigan sued by 53 Dr. Robert Anderson survivors in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by Estey & Bomberger, White Law PLLC, and The Simpson Tuegel Law Firm
Athletic Director Don Canham failed to act on a report initiated by legendary football coach Bo Schembechler, lawsuit says.
ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 30, 2020 – A sexual abuse lawsuit filed today against the University of Michigan on behalf of 53 survivors of sexually abusive team doctor Robert E. Anderson alleges that legendary football coach Bo Schembechler and Athletic Director Don Canham were notified that Anderson was a sexual predator, yet continued to allow Anderson access to athletes.
According to the lawsuit, Schembechler advised a student to file a sexual abuse complaint against Anderson with Canham in 1982. Despite that complaint and others against Anderson dating back years, Canham failed to take action.
The lawsuit, filed jointly by three firms nationally recognized for their work in high-profile sexual abuse cases, includes 27 football players from the 1968 – 1986 teams, as well as members of the baseball, gymnastics, basketball, crew, track and field, and cross country teams, students and staff of the university, and local high school students.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, John Doe EB17, alleges that in 1981, Schembechler recommended that he see Anderson for migraine headaches, which is when Anderson abused him for the first time. In 1982, EB17 reported the abuse to Schembechler, who advised him to report it to Athletic Director Don Canham. Canham did not act, and Anderson retained his position until his retirement in 2003.
The lawsuit claims that the University of Michigan gave Anderson unfettered access to thousands of students and athletes, despite the fact that he was demoted in 1979 for sexually preying on students. Following that demotion, Athletic Director Canham “worked out a deal” that increased Anderson’s role in the athletic department. One claimant, who reported Anderson’s abuse to University of Michigan track and field coach Ron Warhurst, said Warhurst shrugged him off with, “Deal with it, f@cK#r.”
When student athletes visited Anderson’s office for ailments such as sports injuries or headaches, Anderson would digitally penetrate the young men’s anuses and grope and fondle their testicles for his perverted sexual gratification under the guise of medical examinations, the complaint says. In one of many egregious examples of Anderson’s deceptive “medical” procedures enumerated in the complaint, Anderson told a survivor, identified as John Doe WL-8. that he needed to collect a sample of WL-8’s semen to “culture.” To demonstrate, Anderson masturbated and ejaculated into a small dish, and urged WL-8 to “join in.”
“We are thankful that Judge Victoria A. Roberts has taken charge of this litigation and issuing orders that may resolve the case fairly and expeditiously,” attorney Stephen Estey said. “However, we have learned from experience (as legal counsel for more than 100 Ohio State sexual abuse survivors), a university’s actions are sometimes different from the words being conveyed to the public and alumni. The filing of this lawsuit will allow us to continue building a case for trial if the University of Michigan ends up negotiating in bad faith.”
“The men we’re filing for want accountability,” said attorney Jamie White of White Law PLLC. “It’s shocking that Bo Schembechler and Don Canham, two men who enjoyed stature and admiration, just waved off the complaints they received, when they in fact had the power to stop the rape and abuse of hundreds of men.”
Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel agreed that the university must be held to account. “Even after multiple athletes repeatedly asked people in power to put a stop to their abuse, the university ignored their pleas,” she said. “The years don’t erase their pain and they don’t erase the university’s responsibility in this case.”
Estey & Bomberger, White Law PLLC, and the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm all have a high level of expertise in sexual abuse/assault lawsuits. Notably, attorneys James White and Michelle Simpson Tuegel were instrumental in negotiating the $500 million settlement in the Larry Nassar case. Estey is known for his record-setting verdicts and settlements in cases involving allegations of sexual assault/abuse.
The three law firms hope that more victims will come forward so the true extent of Anderson’s abuse can be known. The firms have victim advocates available to answer questions and help survivors deal with any problems.
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Attorney Steve Estey