U. of Michigan facing more legal action over alleged abuse

National Sports

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan shows Dr. Robert E. Anderson. The University of Michigan said Tuesday, April 7, 2020, it is sending a letter to thousands of former student-athletes, asking them to speak with investigators from a law firm it hired to lead a probe into Anderson, a deceased doctor accused of molesting people going back decades. Many men say they were molested by Anderson while seeking treatment for various injuries. Anderson, who died in 2008, worked at the university for decades until his retirement in 2003. (Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan via AP)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A legal team that says it represents more than 100 people who allege that they were abused by a deceased University of Michigan sports doctor on Friday announced the first step in filing a lawsuit against the school.

The Anderson Survivors Legal Team said it has filed 20-plus notices of intent to sue the Ann Arbor school, its board and Dr. Robert Anderson’s estate. A lawsuit would be among a rising wave of legal action against the school, which is investigating allegations of decades of sexual abuse by Anderson.

“We have credible evidence that the University of Michigan received complaints regarding Dr. Anderson and failed to properly investigate, discipline and sanction Dr. Anderson for his abusive and harassing conduct,” attorney John Manly said.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Michigan “has confidence in the independent investigation now underway by the WilmerHale law firm.”

“This firm has deep expertise to conduct a thorough and unflinching review of the facts — wherever they may lead,” Fitzgerald said Friday.

The university has acknowledged some campus employees were aware of accusations against Anderson before a 2018 complaint that led to a police investigation.

The Anderson Survivors Legal Team says its clients include Robert Stone, the first to speak publicly about allegations of abuse against Anderson, and female accusers.

“What they all have in common is there was a power differential and they were manipulated,” Manly said.

The Mike Cox Law Firm has filed 39 lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Detroit and expects that total to increase to about 45 by Monday. The school has responded in court with a motion to consolidate along with a series of requests to delay.

“We argued in our federal court response that UM’s two goals are to, first, seek indefinite delay, until the fall or next year, before they have to respond, even though they had over 21 months to prepare for these lawsuits,” Cox said. “And, then move to dismiss these meritorious complaints, despite their public statements to treat these Michigan men justly.”

Cox said his firm filed a lawsuit in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on Thursday, the county that includes Ann Arbor, giving the school 21 days to respond in front of Washtenaw County Judge Carol Kuhnke.

Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane says it has more than 80 clients, including a former Michigan baseball player, who went on to play in Major League Baseball, trying to reach out-of-court agreements with the school. The Denver-based firm also says it represents former medical school students and residents with accusations against Anderson.

Chuck Christian, the first former Michigan football player to publicly say Anderson abused him, is also hoping to make the school accountable without a lawsuit. Christian said earlier this week that Anderson gave him unnecessary rectal exams before he played for the Wolverines during the 1977-80 seasons. Christian said he has stage 4 prostate cancer that could have been treated sooner and more effectively if he wasn’t emotionally scarred by Anderson’s annual physicals.

More than two months ago, the school revealed it was investigating multiple allegations of abuse against Anderson, who died in 2008. Fitzgerald said that as of Thursday, there have been 257 unique complaints, most via a hotline established to report complaints regarding Anderson.

Two former University of Michigan football players identified as “John B 27 Doe” and “John B 28 Doe” said current assistant athletic director and head trainer Paul Schmidt and a trainer were aware of — and even joked about — Anderson, according to a release from Manly.

“It was always just, like hey, go see Dr. A,” John B 27 Doe said. “Go drop your drawers. I specifically remember Schmidty’s laugh about it. Like I can see him doing it. I definitely remember Schmidty laughin’ and cacklin’ about it.”

John B 27 Doe identified the trainer as “Murph” and described him as “a little more quiet.”

Anderson’s actions were considered a “running joke” among Schmidt, Murph and the other trainers, said John B 28 Doe.

“We would come in and Schmidty would tell us: ‘go on in there and go drop ya drawers,’” he said. “They’d be laughing at us having to go back there to Dr. A to drop our drawers.”

The player now calls it all “crazy.”

“I can’t believe we were put in harm’s way,” John B 28 Doe said.

The Associated Press left a voicemail Friday afternoon seeking comment from Schmidt.

The revelations at Michigan echo other high-profile allegations and investigations of sexual abuse made by patients of sports doctors at Michigan State University and Ohio State University.

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Associated Press writer Mike Householder contributed to this report.

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