Lawsuit alleges MSU, Twistars knew about Nassar abuse but did not stop

By  | 

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Eighteen women athletes say they were sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar and the organizations they trusted did nothing to stop it.

On Tuesday they filed a federal lawsuit against Dr. Nassar, Twistars, Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

The nearly 100 page lawsuit alleges the abuse was first reported in 1997 when the parents of a gymnast at Twistars say they told staff Dr. Nassar sexually assaulted their daughter, but nothing was done about it.

According to court documents, three times after in 1999, 2000 and 2014 other athletes spoke up with the same complaint, each time telling staff at Michigan State University. But according to the lawsuit the university also failed to stop the abuse.

Court documents claim the only abuse allegation MSU looked into was the 2014 incident, which it found no violations had occurred.

In a statement MSU said, "To date, MSU’s review has discovered no evidence that any individuals came forward to MSU with complaints about Nassar before Aug. 29, 2016, other than the 2014 complaint that was investigated by MSU Police and our Title IX office."

The lawsuit alleges a fifth complaint was filed in 2004 with the Meridian Township police department, but also yielded no changes.

According to the lawsuit, many of the women were minors at the time and all were athletes including gymnasts, swimmers and ice skaters. The lawsuit details how each of the women initially went to Dr. Nassar for a sports injury when he sexually assaulted them, all under the guise of a medical procedure.

One of the women was 18-years-old and played softball for MSU.
Court documents show she told trainers at the university about the assault but was told Nassar was a "world renown doctor" and "she should continue seeing him for treatment."

Stephen Drew, a lawyer representing the women, says that inaction let Dr. Nassar continue to assault patients up until last year.

"There was no lawsuit. There was nothing at that time," he said. "Why would you not take her seriously and explore it and investigate it vigorously at that time? If they had done that many of these plaintiffs would not have been subjected to this matter. That is how you stop things."

As for USA gymnastics, the lawsuit alleges it started investigating abuse allegations but never made it public.

But for the lawsuit to stick against these organizations Attorney Curt Benson, who works in civil law and is a Professor Emeritus at WMU Cooley Law School, says they'll have to show plenty of proof.

"Simply saying 'hey this guy worked for you and he hurt me therefore you are liable', that's not enough. It's actually a very difficult burden to prove. You have to show a deliberate indifference. You have to show that they knew or should have known and that they failed to take steps."

This is the fourth lawsuit to be filed against Dr. Nassar and the second naming MSU.

So far more than 60 women have come forward claiming Nassar assaulted them.

Both MSU and USA gymnastics have released statements about the lawsuit. News 10 reached out to Twistars but still hasn't heard back. You can read the full statements and hear from one of the women by clicking on "Related Stories."