A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles accuses a former Team USA Gymnastics doctor of sexually assaulting a Southland woman while she was a student at Michigan State University.
Tiffany Michelle Thomas brought the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Dr. Larry Nassar and MSU, where he formerly worked, seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit’s allegations include civil rights violations, gender violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“The abuse I suffered at the hands of Dr. Nassar created a cloud over my life that I fear will never leave,” Thomas alleged. “I feel guilty, not because I did anything wrong, but because I was not able to come forward sooner and perhaps protect other young girls from Dr. Nassar.”
MSU spokesman Jason Cody issued a statement in response to the lawsuit.
“While we have not been served with any lawsuit and therefore are unable to comment on any potential litigation, I can tell you we take allegations of sexual abuse very seriously,” Cody said.
“Our police, the lead investigative agency in the Nassar case, are devoting significant resources to the criminal investigation against him and are vigorously reviewing all complaints and working through them with the state Attorney General’s office and federal U.S. Attorney’s Office,” he said.
In November, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Nassar with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault with a person under 13. The charges allege that Nassar repeatedly assaulted a girl between 1998 and 2005, beginning when she was 6 years old.
He also was arrested Friday on federal child pornography charges.
Thomas, now 36, is a former MSU softball player and is the 16th accuser to come forward against Nassar, her suit states. She alleges she was sexually abused more than 10 times “under the guise of medical treatment.”
Thomas began her studies at MSU in 1998 and developed lower-back pain while training for softball, according to her court papers. She says she was referred to Nassar for treatment.
“It was at this point that Nassar gained access to the plaintiff and sexually abused her,” the suit alleges.
According to the complaint, Thomas reported the alleged abuses to the MSU training staff in 2000, but found herself “intimidated, coerced and threatened” by high-ranking staff members and told not to make such allegations.
Thomas says she left MSU in 2001 during her senior year and returned to California.
MSU protected Nassar because of the “immense and international acclaim” he had in the gymnastics community, which helped MSU generate funding for its athletics programs, according to the lawsuit.
Nassar also is accused of abusing two former gymnasts, including a former Olympic medalist who alleges she was molested for several years in the mid-90s, dating back to when she was 13 years old.
The second woman alleges that Team USA Gymnastics coaches ignored abuse she endured from Nassar. Both women are suing Nassar and USA Gymnastics.
—City News Service