About Lawsuits [Baltimore, MD]
June 27, 2023
By Irvin Jackson
The decision comes as many states have moved to allow sex abuse lawsuits to be filed despite statute of limitation laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that allows more than 100 student sex abuse lawsuits filed against Ohio State University to proceed, despite the school’s claims that they were legally filed too late.
On Monday, the high court rejected an appeal by Ohio State University to overturn an earlier appeals court ruling, which reinstated claims that former gym students were sexually abused by Richard Strauss, a deceased doctor who used to work in the University’s athletics department.
The claims were originally dismissed after a lower court determined they were time-barred under the Ohio statute of limitations, finding that plaintiffs waited too many years after the abuses occurred to file. However, plaintiffs argued that the time limit for plaintiffs to file did not apply until 2019, when the University released a report detailing Strauss’s abuses.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with plaintiffs and determined that the cases should be reinstated. However, the University filed a petition for the Supreme Court to overturn that decision, which has been declined, meaning those cases are reinstated.
Ohio State University Sexual Abuse Claims
According to allegations raised in the student sex abuse lawsuits, Strauss sexually groped young male athletes, and other patients, during examinations while working for the University. Plaintiffs maintain that concerns about the abusive behavior were raised with Ohio State University, but the allegations were covered up and not adequately disclosed to students and former patients.
Strauss, who died in 2005, was removed from his position as a physician in the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services in 1996, and his actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. However, the university never reported his actions to the police or fully disclose the widespread allegations.
It is estimated Strauss abused about 300 male students during his years at the university. However, many of these claims were not filed until the report detailing his abuses. The university argued that this went against Title IX provisions regulating school sports, which set certain limitations regarding how long sexual abuse survivors could wait before filing a complaint.
Many States Changing Statute of Limitations Laws
The decision comes as numerous states have reviewed and made significant changes to sex abuse statute of limitations laws, allowing survivors additional time to present claims against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the conduct; most commonly involving claims brought by individuals sexually abused as a child.
Many of the new laws have created a limited time window for survivors to file civil lawsuits, regardless of how long ago the incidents occurred. Such laws have been passed in a number of states nationwide, including New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, California, and a growing list of others are still considering legislation.
One of the most recent child sexual abuse statute of limitations extensions was passed in Maryland earlier this year, entirely removing any deadlines for bringing Maryland child sex abuse lawsuits.
The measure was quickly passed following the release of a Maryland Attorney General’s report on child sex abuses that have occurred in the state over decades, which involved members of the Baltimore Archdiocese and other individuals affiliated with the Catholic church.
Passage of the law was opposed by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which claimed the new law violates the Maryland constitution. Recognizing those arguments, the Maryland legislature included provisions that allow parties to pursue an immediate appeal of the constitutionality issue to the Maryland Supreme Court after the law goes into effect on October 1, 2023. However, Maryland Attorney General Brown has indicated he believes his office can defend the constitutionality of the newly signed law.
Supporters of recent legislation that allows additional time argue that removing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims is necessary, since many survivors are not prepared to address the conduct until much later in life. In addition, the Catholic church has been notorious for covering up credible allegations, discrediting child survivors of abuse and pressuring devoted families from pursuing any action against priests or other members of the clergy.