Federal judge dismisses Ohio state lawsuit


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Mike Schyck was coaching his high school wrestlers in Lemon Bay, Florida on Wednesday afternoon when he learned that a federal court judge had dismissed all pending lawsuits against the former doctor at State University of Ohio, Richard Strauss.

“I’m so angry right now,” said Schyck, one of hundreds of men suing Ohio state on Thursday for what they say are decades of mismanagement of abuse allegations. sex against Strauss. “I’m mad at Ohio State. I’m ashamed to be a Buckeye for the first time.”

Schyck, a former Ohio State wrestler who has been fighting college for four years, said he learned the news unexpectedly after calling a lawyer representing some of the other plaintiffs just to catch up and the lawyer rang.

It was then that he learned that Judge Michael H. Watson had delivered the opinion in the U.S. District Court in Columbus, granting the state of Ohio’s motion to close the ‘case. Watson said the hundreds of plaintiffs in multiple civil lawsuits could not proceed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations related to sexual abuse complaints, which for most of the rape charges in Ohio can be up to 20 years.

Watson wrote in his opinion that it is “indisputable” that the plaintiffs “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 justice to help plaintiffs, but that it “would rather start with the legislature”.

Limitation period: What you need to know about Ohio’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse

“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.

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 rejected those motions on Tuesday.

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

One hundred and twenty-six plaintiffs in two of the dismissed cases 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,” said the team of lawyers representing the plaintiffs in response to Watson’s decision, “but it also sends a troubling message that the very real challenges facing them are often confronted by victims of sexual abuse to understand what happened to them – and which enabled the abuse they suffered – is irrelevant when they ultimately seek the court’s help in holding people and responsible abusive institutions.

“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 appeared in federal court in 2019.

In Ohio, 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. “

In May, the state of Ohio announced it would offer an individual settlement program to certain plaintiffs in five pending lawsuits against Strauss University. The deadline to register for this program was September 4 and Johnson said the university has no plans to extend that date at this time.

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

Ohio officials discussing the possibility to extend 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 Strauss’ assailant 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 make much progress.

In February 2020, Governor Mike DeWine said he was unsure of the legal concept of only giving 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 abuse case plaintiffs file motion to challenge federal judge and move cases to Cincinnati

Some of Ohio’s Democratic lawmakers on Thursday called on lawmakers to renew their focus on helping victims of sexual abuse seek justice.

“My heart breaks for the survivors of Dr Stauss’s heinous and reprehensible acts, and I am more than frustrated that Republican leaders have repeatedly failed to take action to ensure that all survivors have access to justice,” he said. said State Representative Lisa Sobecki, D -Tolède.

Representatives Jessica E. Miranda, D-Forest Park, and Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, on Wednesday introduced HB 266, which would eliminate both the statute of limitations for criminal and civil sex crimes and spousal exemptions for the rape, sexual violence, and other sexual offenses.

The bill would also extend the period for victims of childhood sexual abuse to prosecute their abusers from 12 years after reaching adulthood at 37 and create a three-year period for survivors over 55. years to take action.

“This legislation is long overdue and helps provide survivors of sexual violence with a path to justice,” Miranda said in a press release. “Ohio still has a long way to go in our efforts to protect survivors, and this bill is an important step in the right direction to make our communities safer. “

“Justice for victims of sexual assault should not have an expiration date,” Galonski said. “This legislation resizes our laws to empower some of the most vulnerable Ohioans who have not been able to obtain timely justice under current law.”

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