Michigan State University has asked a federal judge to dismiss the civil lawsuit against it by the 140 woman and girls who say Larry Nassar sexually abused them.
Attorneys for the university argue that MSU is a state institution and under Michigan law they are immune from a suit. The motion to dismiss was filed Friday evening in federal court in Grand Rapids.
"For over two decades, Lawrence Nassar masqueraded as a highly regarded doctor, a respected employee, friend, and family man, and an admired member of the community. In the fall of 2016, Nassar was unmasked and exposed for what he is: a fraud, a pedophile, and a criminal. He has now publicly admitted that he abused his position of trust to surreptitiously sexually assault his patients under the guise of medical care. He will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars - and deservedly so."
Attorneys go on to say that MSU and its employees are protected from civil liability. Plaintiffs who wish to sue the State must show that their claims are within the statutory exceptions to immunity. "Hence, although Nassar himself may be held civilly liable for his crimes, MSU may not. It retains absolute immunity from liability for his intentional misconduct." For a claim to overcome immunity Plaintiffs are required to file within six months of the alleged abuse. Lawyers say the Plaintiffs did not file within that time limit. Because of that the attorneys say it is necessary to dismiss all of their State law claims.
They believe that the federal claims will not go forward either. Only students and employees of MSU are allowed to pursue claims against MSU under Title IX. A majority of Plaintiffs are not, or have never been MSU students at the time of Nassar's assaults. Attorneys argue that even Plaintiffs who were students do not have viable Title IX claims because they "do not allege that Nassar's misconduct was reported to an 'appropriate person' under the law or that MSU acted with 'deliberate indifference' to alleged reports of sexual assault."
Nassar was a certified athletic trainer for USA Gymnastics. He received a medical degree from MSU in 1993. From 1996 to 2016 Nassar worked as a physician and Associate Professor for MSU. He also volunteered at Gedderts' Twistars Gymnastics Club, and Holt High School.
In the fall of 2016 he was publicly accused of sexually assaulting a patient under the guise of medical treatment. He was fired from his position at MSU, his medical license was revoked, and he was charged in Ingham and Eaton counties with 25 counts of first degree criminal sexual assault. Beyond that he was federally indicted for receipt and possession of child pornography. Nassar plead guilty to all of those charges.
Many Plaintiffs claim the assaults occurred at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic, which is open to the public. Some allege they were assaulted at USAG-sponsored events, at Karolyi Ranch, at Twistars' and even at Nassar's home. The alleged assaults go back to as early as 1992. The victims claim they were deceived by Nassar, and didn't realize they were victims until years later.
It has been claimed that a few victims spoke up to MSU employees about the alleged assaults. Plaintiffs Larissa Boyce and Jane B8 Doe allege that they said something to Kathie Klages, who was then the MSU Women's Gymnastics Coach. This allegedly occurred in late 1997 or mid-1998. "Klages allegedly told Boyce ' she had known Nassar for years and could not imagine him doing anything questionable' and Boyce must be 'misunderstanding' or 'reading into' Nassar's conduct. Additionally, Klages discouraged both Plaintiffs from making further complaints."
According to the documents there were more complains in 1999, 2000, and 2004. It wasn't until April of 2014 that MSU allegedly received a report regarding Nassar for the first time. Jane D1 Doe, then an adult, made a complaint of sexual harassment against Nassar. She alleged Nassar touched her inappropriately during a medical examination. The complaint went to MSU's Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives. According to attorneys they investigated Nassar's conduct and determined that "Nassar's conduct as alleged by Jane D1 Doe was 'not of a sexual nature' and was medically appropriate." They instructed Nassar that if he were to perform procedures near "sensitive areas" a chaperone should be in the room, and he should minimize skin-on-skin conduct.
Attorneys say that no other complains about Nassar were brought to MSU's attention until the fall of 2016. That is when Rachael Denhollander filed a criminal complaint against Nassar through the MSU Police Department. She alleges that Nassar assaulted her under the guise of medical treatment when she was 15 years old.
"The Plaintiffs alleged that MSU Defendants are liable for Nassar's crimes." There are common law, and statutory claims against MSU for gross negligence, ordinary negligence, negligent retention, negligent supervision, negligent failure to warn or protect, negligent failure to train or educate, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, vicarious/agency liability for Nassar's assaults, sex discrimination in education under Title IX, and deprivation of civil rights. More information is available on page 9 of the document.
A PDF of the argument is available on the right side of this article.