Federal judge dismisses Ohio state lawsuit

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A federal court judge has dismissed all pending lawsuits against Ohio State University for its handling of sexual abuse allegations against former university doctor Richard Strauss.

Judge Michael H. Watson issued an opinion Wednesday evening in U.S. District Court in Columbus, granting the state of Ohio’s motion to close the case, saying the plaintiffs could not move forward due to the expiration of the statute of limitations related to sexual abuse complaints, which for most criminal rape charges in Ohio is up to 20 years.

Watson wrote in his opinion that it is “indisputable” that the complainants “suffered unspeakable sexual abuse at the hands of Strauss” and that doctors, athletic directors, coaches and others in positions of power “did not protected these victims from Strauss predation.

OSU abuse: A look at the career, abuse and death of Ohio State University athletic doctor Richard Strauss

“The plaintiffs are begging this court to hold the state of Ohio accountable, but today the legal system is failing the plaintiffs as well,” he continued. “The pain and suffering of the plaintiffs is neither questioned nor ignored by this Court; indeed, their demands call for a remedy. “

Watson said it was not in the power of the judiciary to help complainants, but that it “would rather start with the legislature”.

“At any time since the filing of these cases, the Ohio legislature had the power, but not the will, to change the statute of limitations for these plaintiffs,” he continued.

Plaintiffs in Strauss abuse cases plan to appeal judge’s ruling

120 sex claimants in two of the dismissed cases – represented by Scott Elliot Smith, LPA; Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP; and the nonprofit litigation and defense group Public Justice – said they plan to appeal Watson’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

New: Judge gives plaintiffs in Ohio State Strauss case until Sunday to seek recusal

“Today’s decision is not only deeply disappointing,” the legal team said in response to Watson’s decision, “but also sends a disturbing message that the very real challenges that survivors of sexual abuse often face are faced to understand what happened to them – and who enabled the abuse they experienced – does not matter when they ultimately seek the court’s help in holding abusive individuals and institutions responsible.

“OSU has spent decades denying, hiding and evading the truth about its role in covering up the abuses that have occurred under its watch. Today’s ruling punishes survivors already traumatized by the university’s ruthless campaign of deception. last word in the survivors’ journey to justice.

Can plaintiffs sue the state of Ohio after the statute of limitations expires?

At the heart of these cases was whether the plaintiffs’ lawsuits fell under state statute of limitations, as they first came to federal court in 2019.

In Ohio, criminal rape charges can be laid for up to 20 years in most cases and up to 25 years for some cases such as those involving children. Adult victims of sexual assault must sue within two years of the attack, and abused children must sue before the age of 30. The current average age of victims in the Strauss case is 50.

What there is to know: Key Findings from the Ohio State Inquiry into Richard Strauss

Title IX actions do not have their own limitation period and therefore rely on the state personal injury limitation period, which in Ohio is two years.

The state of Ohio had sought to dismiss the lawsuits in early 2019, arguing that the limitation period for Title IX lawsuits prevented the university from being held accountable. At that time, Watson said there were “legitimate questions” about the limitations. The plaintiffs, however, argued that the statute of limitations did not begin until the state of Ohio announced its investigation in the spring of 2018.

More than 350 plaintiffs have sued the state of Ohio over allegations of abuse by Strauss. Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said the university has reached settlement agreements with more than 230 people and will continue to cover the cost of professionally certified counseling and treatment services. for anyone affected by Strauss.

Deep dive: How has Strauss’ abuse not been controlled for 20 years in the state of Ohio?

“Beginning in 2018, the state of Ohio sought to uncover and recognize the truth about Richard Strauss’s abuses and the university’s failure at the time to prevent it,” Johnson said. “We are eternally grateful to the survivors who participated in Perkins Coie’s independent investigation, which could not have been completed without their strength and courage, and we offer our sincere regrets and apologies to all who suffered the abuse of Strauss. “

Ohio lawmakers refuse to extend statute of limitations for Strauss victims in Ohio state

Ohio officials were discussing the possibility of extending the statute of limitations for Strauss victims. Current and former lawmakers have expressed unease that hundreds of accusers have sued the state of Ohio in federal court, many of whom have failed to reach a settlement.

A look back: Calling Ohio State abuser Strauss a ‘monster,’ DeWine wants sex crimes laws toughened

House Bill 249, introduced in May 2019 by Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, would suspend the Ohio statute of limitations for civil cases arising from sexual assault, but only for victims of Strauss. The bill went to committee, but did not appear to make much headway.

In February 2020, Governor Mike DeWine said he was unsure of the legal concept of granting only Strauss victims the opportunity to sue after the statute of limitations expired.

“I think it’s probably not appropriate to have a bill that treats different victims, who are really in the same position, differently,” DeWine said at the time. “A bill that would apply only to certain victims raises ethical, moral and constitutional questions.

New: Strauss’s plaintiffs filed a motion to challenge a federal judge and move the cases to Cincinnati

Last week, lawyers representing Strauss’ plaintiffs filed motions to challenge Watson on the basis of a conflict of interest and to move the case to Cincinnati. Watson dismissed the recusal motions on Tuesday.

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