Attorney Ben Crump files lawsuit against Ohio State on behalf of Strauss victims
Ben Crump, a nationally known civil rights attorney, has filed a federal lawsuit against Ohio State University on behalf of victims who have made allegations of sexual abuse by former university doctor Richard Strauss.
In a news release this week, Crump said victims who believe they were abused or harassed by Strauss while at Ohio State should come forward before May 15.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio currently represents two plaintiffs, Alonzo Shavers and Kenneth McHone, both former Ohio State students. It is a companion lawsuit to 10 previously settled lawsuits and one that is still pending.
Both men were students at OSU between 1992 and 1999. Shavers was a student athlete on the Ohio State Buckeyes football team for four years.
Crump's lawsuit comes a week after Ohio State announced it would offer an individual settlement program to some plaintiffs in five outstanding lawsuits against the university.
The settlement program will begin May 7 and run for four months. It will be administered by Matt Garretson, who also oversaw other settlements with Ohio State in May and October of last year. Garretson "is a nationally recognized administrator of settlement programs, which includes extensive experience administering settlements in sexual abuse lawsuits," the university said Friday.
"Regardless of the mediation or litigation, in a continuation of its effort to do the right thing for Strauss survivors, Ohio State now invites eligible claimants and their counsel who have not already settled their claims against Ohio State to do so on an individual basis through the program," the university said.
The program is available at StraussIndividualSettlementProgram.com.
Individual settlements are currently available only to plaintiffs in the five specific lawsuits, university spokesman Ben Johnson said. It is not available to plaintiffs who have filed against Ohio State more recently, including 23 other new plaintiffs, including the first female, to file claims against Strauss in April.
How much will Ohio State pay to victims of Richard Strauss?
With the five lawsuits, Ohio State is committed to paying settlements up to an average of about $252,000 per plaintiff, Johnson said last week. That figure is the average settlement reached for 185 previous plaintiffs, totaling nearly $47 million in settlements.
“This was a grotesque perversion of power that deeply harmed people’s lives. Every victim deserves justice. It is not for OSU to cherry pick which survivor gets to participate in a settlement program,” Crump said in the release. “Students on athletic scholarships, who are often minorities, have no option but to endure and then report sexual abuse because their educational opportunities are on the line."
Who is attorney Ben Crump?
Crump, who is based in Florida but has offices across the country, has represented the families of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor. He is also representing the family of Andre Hill, a 47-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by Columbus police officer Adam Coy outside a garage at a Northwest Side home in December 2020.
In 2019, investigators hired by Ohio State concluded that Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students between 1978 and his retirement in 1998, and that university officials repeatedly failed to act.
But at least 360 plaintiffs have filed 23 lawsuits against the university over alleged abuse by Strauss and Ohio State’s reported lack of action. Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
"Ohio State remains committed to acknowledging the condemnable behavior of a medical doctor who so clearly betrayed his position of power and trust,” said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson on Friday. “We once again thank the survivors for coming forward and the courage to bring this abuse to light."
Crump said Monday that it is Ohio State's responsibility to protect students and right any of Strauss' wrongs.
“OSU failed their students and alumni with their lack of action towards Dr. Strauss over a long period of time when they had plenty of complaints and warning signs that he was sexually abusing hundreds, if not thousands, of young men,” Crump said.
“Telling one group of survivors in the public domain, outside the confidential mediation process, the abuse they suffered has no value re-victimizes those they should be trying to help heal. It is apparent to our team that making the settlement program announcement outside the protections of a confidential mediation process is not an attempt to repair the damage done but rather an attempt to selfishly repair OSU’s image."