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2 women sue MSU, Sparrow for failing to protect them from sexual assault by neurology resident

Michigan State University
Posted at 6:44 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 20:42:55-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Two women are suing Michigan State University and Sparrow Hospital in federal court for allegedly failing to protect them from sexual assault and harassment.

Daniel Barnett, attorney for the plaintiffs

“It's really about knowledge. It's about did you know that this there could potentially be a dangerous situation,” said Daniel Barnett, attorney for the plaintiffs.

University spokesperson Emily Guerrant said MSU had not been officially served yet, "so our legal team is still waiting to review the lawsuit.”

Sparrow Hospital said they did not want to comment on pending litigation but added that the safety of their patients, visitors, and caregivers remain a top priority.

Michael Phinn

The women were working at MSU’s neurology clinic in 2017 and 2018 when neurology resident Michael Phinn sexually assaulted them. Phinn pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault and was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Tuesday, Grewal Law in Okemos filed a civil lawsuit against the university and Sparrow for failing to protect the survivors of Phinn's abuse.

Tuesday, Grewal Law in Okemos filed a civil lawsuit against the university and Sparrow for failing to protect the survivors of Phinn's abuse.

“We have a report to a supervisor saying these allegations that were proven true in a criminal court of law are happening to me. And then not only did more sexual assaults happen after that report was made to a supervisor, they also happen to another woman,” Barnett said.

Barnett said the case is an effort to hold institutions accountable for the misconduct that happens under their watch.

Barnett said the case is an effort to hold institutions accountable for the misconduct that happens under their watch.

“Emily Guerrant, speaking for MSU, stated this case underscores the need for culture change at MSU. And we agree with that, and to what that sounds like to me, is transparency, accountability, and justice," Barnett said.

Guerrant says the university has been working on shifting the culture for years now and its newest relationship violence and sexual misconduct policies were created with two major questions in mind.

Guerrant says the university has been working on shifting the culture for years now and its newest relationship violence and sexual misconduct policies were created with two major questions in mind.

“How can we better improve awareness on our campus where people know where to turn to? And how can we work on the culture that also lets people know we are taking this seriously and we're looking into it and we will hold people accountable?” Guerrant said.

Guerrant says the university has made changes to its reporting systems, requiring more faculty to report misconduct to the Title IX office directly.

“The survivors in this situation, they have rights. They have rights to be supported and to seek civil recourse. So, they want and they're exercising those rights. And we understand that and respect that, but we also will defend the institution where we believe we've acted appropriately as well,” Guerrant said.

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