CINCINNATI, Ohio (WCMH) – More than 20 years after being victimized by former Ohio State University doctor Richard Strauss, and four years after filing claims against the university for allowing it to happen, about 100 of the sexual assault survivors got to take their case to a federal appeals court Tuesday.
A three-judge federal panel in Cincinnati heard arguments over whether the district court got it wrong when it dismissed the claims for being far outside the two-year statute of limitations.
Both sides agreed Ohio State officials knew about the abuse that happened under the guise of physical exams between 1979 and 1998.
No cameras were allowed at Tuesday’s hearing.
The attorney for the victims argued students didn’t learn until 2018 that the university concealed the abuse back then, and allowed it to continue.
The attorney for the university said students knew then they were being victimized, and even had nicknames for Strauss.
“Dr. Soft Hands and Dr. Cough – names that reflect his sexual predation,” said Michael Carpenter, attorney for Ohio State. “That’s their allegation in this complaint, at paragraph 196, and we must look to the allegations of the plaintiffs, in this case, to determine whether the cause of action accrued 20 to 40 years ago. It did.”
“They failed to disclose Strauss’ abuse to the medical board, to law enforcement, to the public, to students,” said Ilaan Maazel, attorney for the victims. “They shredded his employment file, they destroyed patient health records. They lied to Mr. Snyder Hill when he said, ‘Has anyone else ever been abused?’ They failed to discipline him for two decades. When they finally had a disciplinary hearing, they hid it, then they hid the findings, and then they let him work at the university for two more years, and then they gave him emeritus status and, years later, they lauded him for being a great doctor for students.”
Two of the judges on the panel called the actions by the university “egregious.” But the question before the court is whether District Court Judge Michael Watson was wrong when he applied the statute of limitations to claims that date back as far as 40 years.
The ruling is expected within the next few months.