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6th Cir Court of Appeals Reinstates Sex Abuse Case Against The Ohio State University

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the lawsuits of over a hundred sexual abuse survivors against Ohio State University and rejected OSU’s statute of limitation defense.

This decision paves the way for plaintiffs to hold OSU accountable in federal court for the school’s decades-long role in facilitating and concealing the sexual abuse of hundreds of students and others by university physician Dr. Richard Strauss.

In its opinion, the Court explained three independent reasons plaintiffs’ claims should be allowed to proceed. “First, the plaintiffs plausibly allege that they did not know and lacked reason to know that Ohio State caused their injury. Second, they plausibly allege that even if they had investigated further, they could not have learned of Ohio State’s conduct. Third, most plaintiffs plausibly allege that they did not know that they were abused. Alone, each of these grounds is sufficient to delay accrual.”

“For years, Ohio State University hid behind a phony statute of limitations defense to avoid accountability for one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in the history of American higher education,” said ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel, who argued the appeal on behalf of over a hundred sexual abuse survivors. “Now OSU can finally be held accountable for enabling and covering up decades of abuse.”

Press
“Court ruling revives unsettled lawsuits vs. Ohio State over sexual abuse by late team doctor Richard Strauss,” Associated Press (also published in ESPN.com, The Public’s Radio)
“Strauss Victims Win Appeal, Able to Move Forward with Case Against Ohio State,” The Lantern
“Lawsuits against Ohio State alleging sex abuse by team doctor can move forward,” NBC News
“Judge allows Strauss survivors’ suit against Ohio State to move forward,” NBC4i.com
“Appeals court rules in favor of Strauss victims, revives lawsuits against Ohio State,” The Columbus Dispatch
“’Milestone’ for victims in the Dr. Richard Strauss court battle,” ABC 6

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On Behalf of Survivors, ECBAWM Argues for OSU Sexual Assault Lawsuits to Be Revived

Representing over 100 sexual assault survivors of The Ohio State University’s Dr. Richard Strauss whose lawsuits against OSU were dismissed on statutes of limitations grounds, ECBAM partner Ilann Maazel argued before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week that those lawsuits should be revived.

In his September 2021 ruling dismissing the lawsuits, U.S. District Court Judge (S.D. Ohio) Michael Watson wrote, “Ohio State utterly failed these victims … today, the legal system also fails Plaintiffs.” However, he held that the statute of limitations barred survivor lawsuits that were brought in 2018 and 2019.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit and the case was argued this week. Arguing for the plaintiffs, Maazel pointed out that OSU’s indifference and concealment made it impossible for the complete picture of Strauss’ wrongdoing to be known – or for lawsuits to be filed – during Strauss’ tenure. Maazel also noted that in 2018, OSU itself said it didn’t have answers as to what school leaders knew while Strauss was employed at the school. “And if they didn’t know in 20128, how on earth did students and teenagers know that in the 1980s and 1990s?”

Related
Audio Recording of the Oral Argument

Press
“Men Abused by Ohio State doctor ask court to revive lawsuits,” Associated Press
(also appearing in the Washington PostYahoo, the Albany Times Union, the Seattle Times, and the Houston Chronicle)
“On appeal, lawyers for Strauss victims say OSU shouldn’t profit off ‘deception’,” Ohio Capital Journal
“Lawyers representing Strauss Victims Argue to Overturn the Dismissal of Their Cases,” The Lantern

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NYLJ Publishes Adult Survivors Act Article by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

In “The Adult Survivors Act: A Window of Opportunity,” his most recent column for the New York Law Journal, ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel outlines the different options sexual assault survivors have for seeking justice in New York Courts. Maazel explains the differences between the Child Victims Act, the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Prevention Act, and other statutes that can potentially be used to commence legal proceedings. Most pressing, Maazel explains, is the recently passed Adult Survivors Act (ASA), which creates a one-year window for survivors sexually abused in New York State after their 18th birthday the opportunity to file a lawsuit against not only their abuser(s), but against any person or institution whose negligence proximately caused the abuse. Maazel emphasizes that the one-year window begins on November 24, 2022 and will close on November 24, 2023. “Given the many years it took to pass the ASA, it is impossible to know when, if ever, a window of opportunity to bring these claims will occur again.”

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ECBAWM Announces an Adult Survivors Act Practice

ECBAWM announces that it is creating an Adult Survivors Act (ASA) practice to represent survivors to pursue sexual abuse cases under New York’s ASA, which became law on May 24, 2022. The new law allows adult victims (people who were 18 or older at the time of the abuse) a one-time opportunity to file civil lawsuits in New York, even if any statutes of limitations have otherwise run out. The one-year window to file claims will open in November 2022 and ECBAWM is actively representing survivors now.

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Fourth Circuit Cites Amicus Brief Filed by ECBAWM

In an opinion issued today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit quoted and relied on an amicus brief filed by ECBAWM on behalf of law professors Aziz Huq and Erwin Chemerinsky. The case involves claims brought by a former federal public defender in North Carolina who alleges she was sexually assaulted by members of the public defender’s office. The amicus brief ECBAWM filed argued that the District Court misapplied the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

ECBAWM partners Ilann Maazel and Sam Shapiro authored the brief, which can be found here.

The Fourth Circuit opinion can be read in its entirety here.

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ECBAWM Challenges Dismissal of 118 Plaintiffs’ Sex Abuse Claims Against The Ohio State University in the Sixth Circuit, Five Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Plaintiffs

On February 2, ECBAWM filed opening briefs in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the District Court’s decision to dismiss cases Snyder-Hill v. OSU and Moxley v. OSU as untimely. The two cases, in which ECBAWM represents 118 plaintiff-survivors, bring Title IX claims on behalf of men who survived sexual abuse by OSU physician Richard Strauss from the 1970s to the 1990s and did not know of OSU’s role in facilitating that abuse until a whistleblower came forward in 2018. The briefs argue that the trial court erred in dismissing the claims of these survivors on the basis that they should have brought their claims when the abuse happened, because no plaintiff knew OSU enabled Dr. Strauss’ predation and most did not know that Dr. Strauss’s medical exams were actually sexual abuse.

On February 9, five organizations and scholars filed amicus briefs, or “friend of the court” briefs, in support of the appeals. The organizations and scholars include the National Crime Victim Law Institute, Child USA, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Women’s Sports Foundation, civil procedure law professors, psychology and psychiatry professors, and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC). A link to and a short summary of each brief is below:

RAINN, et al:  This brief explains how schools often place their own interests ahead of student-survivors, how they may protect their interests by misleading student-survivors and not providing evidence, and how the District Court erred by not recognizing these obstacles to a sexual abuse survivor’s ability to obtain evidence of a school’s role in enabling abuse.

Psychology Professors: This brief explains some of the reasons why people do not recognize sexual abuse as such at the time it happens, and that people can still suffer serious short-term and long-term harm even when they don’t recognize what they suffered was sexual abuse.

NCVC:  This brief explains the challenges that medical patients face in recognizing sexual abuse in the physician-patient context and described numerous examples of doctors misusing the trust patients place in them to abuse patients.

NWLC, Women’s Sports Foundation, et al:  This brief explains the challenges that student-athletes face in recognizing acts of sexual abuse in the context of college athletics.

Civil Procedure Professors:  This brief explains the history of Title IX and the proper use of the federal discovery rule to analyze when plaintiffs should have discovered their claim.

The Snyder-Hill and Moxley plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM’s Ilann M. MaazelDebra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides, along with Scott Elliot Smith LPA and Public Justice.

 

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ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman Published in City & State: The Adult Survivors Act Is Needed Legislation

In an opinion piece published in City & State, ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman draws on her experience representing sexual assault survivors to explain why the proposed Adult Survivors Act should become law. Under current New York law, the time to file a civil case for a sexual assault that happened before 2019 is usually very short.

Based on the previously enacted Child Victims Act, the Adult Survivors Act would create a new “lookback window” so that survivors whose sexual assault occurred prior to 2019 would be allowed a one-year window to revive any civil lawsuits that would otherwise be barred under the statute of limitations.

“The Adult Survivors Act passed the state Senate unanimously last spring but for unclear reasons failed to advance in the Assembly,” writes Salzman. “With a new governor at the helm and a new legislative session that began this month, New York’s leaders have another chance to pass this important law.”

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ECBAWM Partner Debbie Greenberger Argues for Overhaul of New York State’s Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations

In an op-ed published in City Limits, ECBAWM partner Debbie Greenberger and co-author Andrew Shubin of Shubin Law argue that New York State must overhaul the statute of limitations for sexual abuse “to ensure that victims, no matter their age, have continuing access to the courts.”

Although the New York Child Victims Act created a two-year “window” for civil sexual assault claims that would otherwise be time-barred, this window closes on August 14, 2021. As Ms. Greenberger and Mr. Shubin point out, because of the trauma survivors experience and the actions perpetrators and their institutional enablers purposefully take to silence victims, the average age to report childhood sexual abuse is 52 years old – far after the applicable statute of limitations before the Child Victims Act.

“Continuing legal reform is urgent to prevent the statute of limitations from offering refuge to sexual abusers and the institutions—schools, health care providers, camps, athletic, and religious organizations—who protect perpetrators who present ongoing and potent dangers,” write the authors. “Victims must be able to hold institutions accountable for facilitating and covering up their employee’s sexual abuse and for their indifference to the wellbeing, and suffering, of the children in their care.”

You can read more about the closure of the New York Child Victims Act in Insider‘s article “Lawyers are rushing to file child sexual abuse lawsuits before New York’s statute of limitations goes back into effect.

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New York Times Publishes Letter from ECBAWM Partner Zoe Salzman: “Holding Rapists Accountable”

In a letter published on July 23 by The New York Times, ECBAWM partner Zoe Salzman provides additional insight into the reasons sexual assaults are frequently underreported to the police and the vital role civil lawsuits often play in providing justice for survivors.

“[Going to the police] brings up all the burdens of re-traumatization and re-victimization, with very little promise of conviction,” writes Salzman. “That means that until our criminal justice system is seriously overhauled, a civil lawsuit is often the only viable option survivors have to hold those who raped them accountable.”

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CNN, Sports Illustrated, and Other Major Media Cover Latest OSU Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Major media outlets have covered the latest lawsuit filed by ECBAWM against The Ohio State University for the role it played in facilitating and concealing the sexual abuse of student-athletes by its former employee Dr. Richard Strauss.

Press Coverage 
“Nearly 30 new alleged abuse victims sue The Ohio State University,” CNN
“More Men Were Abused by Former Ohio State Doctor, New Lawsuit Says,” Sports Illustrated
“More men were abused by former Ohio State doctor, new lawsuit says,” ESPN
“New Lawsuit: More Men Were Abused by Ohio State Doctor,” US News & World Report
“New lawsuit: More men were abused by Ohio State doctor,” Associated Press

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