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Court revives lawsuits against Ohio State over sex abuse

A federal appeals court ruling Wednesday revives unsettled lawsuits against Ohio State University over decades-old sexual abuse by the late team doctor Richard Strauss.

A district judge in Columbus had dismissed most of the unsettled cases, acknowledging that hundreds of young men were abused but agreeing with the university’s argument that the legal time limit for the claims had long passed. The plaintiffs argued that the clock didn’t start until the allegations came to light in 2018, and that their cases should be allowed to continue.

Two of the three judges on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that heard the case concluded in Wednesday’s ruling that the men “plausibly allege a decades-long cover up” and “adequately allege that they did not know and could not reasonably have known that Ohio State injured them until 2018.”

“Ohio State is a vast institution, and the plaintiffs’ allegations underscore how difficult it is for a student to know what appropriate persons within the Ohio State administration knew” about abuse allegations, Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the decision.

Lead plaintiff Steve Snyder-Hill said it’s a huge ruling for the survivors, who believe it could influence other sexual misconduct cases at universities.

Judge Ralph B. Guy Jr. dissented with the decision, writing that the clock on the claims ran out decades ago and that the court’s decision “effectively nullifies any statute of limitations for Title IX claims based on sexual harassment.”

Ohio State is reviewing the ruling, university spokesperson Benjamin Johnson said by email.