WASHINGTON (AP) – Penn State is adequately covered to handle lawsuits stemming from the sexual abuse scandal that has enveloped the campus, its president said, repeating that the university hopes to settle many of them “as quickly as possible” even though its insurer has sought to limit claims.
Rodney Erickson told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program in an interview taped for broadcast Sunday that the university has general liability coverage like any institution of its size.
“We believe that we are adequately covered,” he said in a clip posted Saturday on the program’s website.
“In addition to that, we hope to be able to settle as many of these cases as quickly as possible,” Erickson said. “We don’t want to, if at all possible, drag victims through another round of court cases and litigation. If we can come to an agreement with them, with their attorneys, we believe that would be the best possible outcome in this whole very, very difficult, tragic situation.”
Retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted last month of abusing 10 boys over 15 years in one of the worst scandals in sports history.
Penn State’s general liability insurer sought last week to deny or limit coverage for Sandusky-related claims. Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance argued that Penn State withheld key information needed to assess risk.
In a memo filed in court in Philadelphia, the company argued that Penn State failed to disclose that it had information about Sandusky that “was material to the insurable risk assumed by PMA.” The company, which has long insured the university, also argued that its policies after March 1, 1992, were amended to exclude “abuse or molestation” and that coverage for such behavior is excluded as a matter of public policy in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, attorneys announced that a man has come forward to say that he was the one that prosecutors say Sandusky assaulted in the school’s football locker room showers. The identity of that boy has been one of the biggest mysteries of the case, and the handling of that accusation against Sandusky cost veteran coach Joe Paterno his job and brought accusations of a cover-up by high-level university officials, two of whom await trial on charges of perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse.
Another accuser has filed paperwork indicating an additional complaint is in the works, while other lawyers also have indicated they represent men with potential claims.
In June, after Sandusky was convicted of 45 sex abuse counts, the university said it hoped to quickly compensate victims and would reach out to their lawyers. Penn State spokesman Dave La Torre declined to comment on anything related to the victims and any settlement discussions.
Erickson said in a Washington Post op-ed on Saturday that he didn’t suggest NCAA sanctions imposed Monday – a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl game ban, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins – and didn’t take the repercussions lightly, but the actions were preferable to “the alternative” – a multiyear ban on football.”
Such a ban, he wrote, “would have been far more detrimental to the healing process of our students and alumni.”
Erickson said many feel it is unfair that students, faculty, staff and alumni “who had no involvement, or even knowledge of who Jerry Sandusky was, now share in the responsibility of leaders who failed.”
“I think, however, that acceptance of this responsibility will be essential to our ability to lay a new foundation and integral to the long-term character of our institution,” he said. “In the face of this adversity, I am proud of the many students, faculty and alumni who have banded together with grace, humility and determination.
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