Palm Springs resident’s revelation was key moment leading to $490 million settlement with university

A brave first step by a Palm Springs resident in 2020 marked a turning point that eventually led to Wednesday’s announcement that the University of Michigan will pay $490 million to settle abuse cases brought by more than 1,000 people.

A brave first step by a Palm Springs resident in 2020 marked a turning point that eventually led to Wednesday’s announcement that the University of Michigan will pay $490 million to settle abuse cases brought by more than 1,000 people.

Robert Stone, an author, film critic, and community advocate who ran for Palm Springs City Council in 2017, was the first to come forward publicly — in February 2020 — sharing his story of sexual abuse by a university doctor in the 1970s. More than 1,000 others followed, leading to 2,100 individual reports of abuse and rape by the doctor.

The university had been in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits by Stone and others, primarily men, who said the doctor sexually abused them during routine medical examinations. The doctor worked at the university from 1966 until his 2003 retirement and was director of the university’s Health Service and a physician for multiple athletic teams, including football. He died in 2008.

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On Wednesday, following private talks that concluded this week, the university announced the settlement. It comes more than three years after a former student wrote to Michigan’s athletic director and reported the misconduct and nearly two years after Stone first publicly told his story. 

Stone communicated briefly through email with The Post on Wednesday, saying that now that the case was settled, he was comfortable with the community knowing his role in the nationwide story. He earlier revealed details of that story, and his emotional journey following the abuse, to publications in both Ann Arbor, Mich., and the UK.

“He was just a disgusting human being,” Stone said of the doctor in an interview with UK-based PinkNews. “And what he put us through was so traumatizing.

“I remember when I walked out of that exam room, I was so disgusted. And I was so angry. And I’m still angry. Fifty years later, I’m still carrying this anger.”

The agreement is one of the largest by an American university to settle sexual abuse allegations. In 2020, the university acknowledged it was investigating claims against the doctor and asked people who believed they were victims to come forward. In May 2021, a law firm hired by the university concluded that the doctor had “engaged in sexual misconduct with patients on countless occasions.”

“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Jordan Acker, chair of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, in a prepared statement. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”

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