CINCINNATI, Ohio (WCMH) – Victims of former Ohio State University physician Richard Strauss can proceed with their lawsuits, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Ohio State’s request for a full-panel, en banc review Wednesday, asserting that “the issues raised in the petition were fully considered upon the original submission and decision of the case.” The decision all but completely closes the door on Ohio State’s attempts to get victims’ lawsuits thrown out on the claim that the statute of limitations has passed.
Instead, the court reaffirmed its September decision to allow the lawsuits to proceed, agreeing with plaintiffs’ arguments that because there is evidence the university covered up Strauss’ abuse, the two-year statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse cases should start when Strauss’ abuse became public – in 2018.
“The plaintiffs had no reason to know that Ohio State injured them until Ohio State’s conduct became public,” Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in her concurring opinion.
In a statement, the legal team for victims of Strauss said the court’s decision “paves the way for hundreds of Strauss survivors to hold Ohio State accountable for its decades of concealing and enabling Strauss’s abuse.”
“The road may be long, but we are one step closer to justice,” the statement read. “No matter how long Ohio State delays this case, the university will eventually be held to account for its wrongdoing.”
An Ohio State spokesperson said the university was “reviewing the decision” and had no comment.
Strauss was an Ohio State physician and varsity team sports doctor from 1978-98. During his tenure, he sexually abused and harassed hundreds of students – nearly all men – under the guise of medical exams.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005. Since 2018, more than 400 victims and their families have filed lawsuits against Ohio State for its failure to prevent and address the abuse, which an independent investigation found in 2019 that university officials were aware of as early as 1979.
In a 2-1 decision three months ago, the federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss Strauss victims’ lawsuits on the grounds that the statute of limitations should have run out two years after each victim left the university.
In his dissent, Judge Chad Readler criticized his colleagues’ decision to deny the review, remarking that “the majority opinion brought together in shared opposition collegiate rivals that rarely see eye to eye” in reference to the amicus brief filed in support of Ohio State by seven major midwestern universities.
“In reversing a decision dismissing a Title IX suit filed against the Ohio State University, our Court took legislative matters into its own hands,” Readler’s dissent read.
Ohio State made the uncommon move to request an en banc review shortly after the appeals court’s decision. But in its Wednesday ruling, the court determined that “no compelling reasons exist to justify rehearing this case en banc.” Instead, Moore wrote in her concurring opinion that Ohio State’s petition recycled the same arguments it used before the court — the arguments with which the court ultimately disagreed.
“The holding desired by the dissent would have ignored Title IX’s plain language and eviscerated Title IX’s purpose by creating a perverse incentive for institutions to run out the clock on the limitations period by covering up sexual abuse,” Moore wrote.