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Number of Nassar accusers approaches 500

Some victims look on during the plea hearing in which Dr. Larry Nassar pled guilty to 1st degree criminal sexual conduct.
Kate Wells
Michigan Radio

The total number of women and girls who say they are survivors in the Larry Nassar case is now around 500. Michigan State University reached a $500 million settlement with 332 survivors in May, and the Michigan Legislature extended the time survivors could come forward with a claim through September 10.

According to Michael Pitt, a representative and spokesperson for the 37 attorneys representing the second wave of women and girls, there are 167 new claimants who came forward by the Sept. 10 deadline. That brings the estimated total to 499. MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant told Michigan Radio that there are 169 new claimants in the second wave, which would put the total number at 501. 

The initial settlement with MSU included a $75 million carve out for new claims. Pitt says that doesn't matter. "We don't consider ourselves bound by that amount. There's going to be some frank discussion about the fair amount that's going to be used to compensate this group of women," Pitt said.

The second wave of women have filed suit against Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, Twistars USA Gymnastics Club, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. 

According to Pitt, the second wave group includes a large number of minors, many of whom are sisters of the original claimants. Because of the large proportion of younger girls, he says the group has a greater need for privacy, and is the reason many of them hesitated to come forward for the initial case.

"Once they realized that they will have an avenue for redress, and that there was a real possibility that the matter could be resolved on a confidential basis, they had the courage to come forward," says Pitt.

It is also not yet clear what standards may be applied to these newer cases, and whether those would be the same as the original 332 survivors. Pitt was confident, however, that the second wave group would be treated "fairly and equally."

In addition to pursuing their claims in federal court, the new group has cases pending in the Michigan Court of Claims and Ingham County Circuit Court. 

Up until this point, the Larry Nassar case has been handled in federal court. In their complaint to the Michigan Court of Claims, the claimants allege that the State of Michigan violated their bodily integrity via Larry Nassar and Michigan State University. According to Pitt, MSU and the State of Michigan are one and the same in the eyes of the law. Because they are alleging violation of bodily integrity, which is protected by Michigan's Constitution, Pitt says that the state can't claim governmental immunity as it would in some other types of cases.

Judge Cynthia Stephens has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 30 to determine next steps for the case.

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