Ex-wrestler sues University of Michigan over doc’s assaults
DETROIT (AP) — A man who was a college wrestler in the 1980s sued the University of Michigan on Wednesday, alleging that a school doctor molested him dozens of times despite the university knowing that he was a threat to athletes.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit is the first since victims of late Dr. Robert E. Anderson began to emerge a few weeks ago. The man, identified only as John Doe, accused the university of failing to remove the doctor despite complaints about him. Doe said he was a student from 1984 to 1989.
“We’re not looking to out any of our clients,” said attorney Mike Cox, a former state attorney general.
Cox said his law firm in suburban Detroit represents about 20 people, including former Michigan football and hockey players along with wrestlers, all willing to file lawsuits against the school.
“We’ll have 10 more filed by noon Thursday and five to 10 more by Monday,” Cox said.
Anderson was a team physician for various sports at the University of Michigan from 1966 until his retirement in 2003. He died in 2008.
“One illustrative incident is when plaintiff scratched his arm while wrestling on the mat during a summer training session, and he was told by leadership to see Anderson about the bleeding,” the lawsuit states.
“During his appointment for his arm, Anderson told plaintiff to drop his pants, and Anderson sexually assaulted, abused and molested” him, according to the lawsuit.
A university spokeswoman said the school couldn’t comment “other than to deeply apologize for the harm caused by Robert E. Anderson.”
“We recognize the enormous strength and courage it takes for survivors to come forward and share their stories, university spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said.
The university has acknowledged that some campus employees were aware of accusations against the doctor prior to a 2018 complaint that led to a police investigation. The school announced last week that it had received more than 100 complaints about Anderson.
“The university continues to encourage those who have been harmed by Robert E. Anderson, or who have evidence of his misconduct, to come forward,” Broekhuizen said.
Doe’s lawsuit accuses the university of violating his rights under federal education law and failing to supervise the doctor.
Doe said he entered college as a 17-year-old from a large, blue-collar family.
He said Anderson’s treatments made him uncomfortable but that he was trained through wrestling “to do as he was ordered by those in positions in authority.”
More than 50 people, including a member of Michigan’s 1997 national championship football team, also say they were victimized by Anderson, according to a law firm representing them. The firm said during a news conference Wednesday evening that its clients want to make the school accountable without publicly revealing their names.
The firm, Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, said it met Wednesday for a second time with the school’s vice president and general counsel Timothy Lynch.
“I believe the university is trying to do the same thing,” Denver-based attorney Michael Nimmo said. “If we didn’t feel like they had the right intentions, we would not be talking to them anymore.”
Following a meeting with the independent investigators hired by the University of Michigan, attorney Parker Stinar said he is advising his clients and others who allege Anderson abused them to not call the school’s hotline set up for others who have information to come forward.
Stinar is calling on the Michigan attorney general’s office to investigate allegations of abuse against Anderson.
On Thursday, three men plan to speak publicly while joined by women who were assaulted by Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar is serving decades in prison. John Manly, a lawyer who represented many Nassar victims, said the attorney general’s office should investigate what the University of Michigan knew about Anderson, who worked there for decades.
“It needs to happen now,” Manly said.