COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio State University awarded $247,000 in settlements Friday to survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of a former university physician.
The latest string of settlements, awarded to seven former students, brings Ohio State’s total monetary damages to $60 million split amongst 296 survivors who were sexually abused by Dr. Richard Strauss under the guise of medical exams during the 1980s and ‘90s, according to a news release from the university.
“We continue to work toward restorative justice for survivors,” Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson said in the release. “This doctor’s conduct was abhorrent, and we are grateful for the survivors’ strength and courage.”
Strauss, who worked at the university from 1978 to 1998, died by suicide in 2005.
The $247,000 settlement comes 10 months after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Ohio State filed by more than 300 men who claimed the university ignored complaints of Strauss’ sexual abuse over a 20-year period.
Judge Michael H. Watson, who was asked to recuse himself from the case due to a conflict of interest regarding his financial ties to Ohio State, dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the two-year statute of limitations had expired.
The seven additional settlement recipients were among those whose lawsuits were dismissed by Watson and were too late to be eligible for Ohio State’s individual settlement program established in May 2021, according to the university.
Steve Snyder-Hill, who said he was sexually abused by Strauss in 1995, called the announcement “more public manipulation” delivered “in typical OSU fashion” – released on a Friday afternoon just days before the university is scheduled to appear in court.
Of the nearly 200 men with outstanding claims against the university, attorneys representing 100 of them will deliver oral arguments Tuesday before Ohio’s Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of invalidating Watson’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit.
“They (Ohio State) argued to the court against having oral arguments, why, because they don’t want the public to see what they do to sexual assault survivors out in the open, fighting and dismissing us,” Snyder-Hill said in an email. “They would much rather do that behind closed doors while calling us ‘brave.’”
Scott Smith, an attorney representing the group of about 100 plaintiffs, said Ohio State fraudulently concealed complaints of Strauss’ abuse – and many victims were unaware they had been abused until years later – and thus the two-year statute of limitations should not apply.
“We want them to reverse the decision based on the statute of limitations because of the discovery rule and fraudulent concealment,” Smith said. “OSU knew about it, understood it was wrong, denied it and covered it up.”
A second group of about 100 plaintiffs filed a separate appeal, hoping to reopen the case against Ohio State on the grounds that Watson should have recused himself from the judge’s bench. In their appeal, plaintiffs claimed that Watson failed to disclose his full involvement with the university, including being a paid law professor and his spouse’s licensing deal with Ohio State.
In May 2019, Perkins Coie LLP law firm released a 180-page independent investigation that detailed Strauss’ acts of sexual abuse against at least 177 former Ohio State students.
Ohio State said it has covered the cost of counseling services and treatment for those impacted by Strauss since February 2019 and encouraged those in need of services to contact its partner Praesidium.
Contact the 24-hour Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio helpline at 614-267-7020 or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.