A new lawsuit accusing former sports director George Perles and Michigan State University police of investigating a rape of Larry Nassar in 1992 is subject to inconsistencies and raises questions for some and for others to defend the plaintiff.
Several allegations made in the lawsuit are also contested by Merrily Dean Baker, who took over as MSU's athletic director, while the events described by plaintiff Erika Davis allegedly unfolded.
"There seems to be something on the timeline, it does not make sense," said Baker, who said she had never heard of Davis's allegations before the lawsuit was filed on Monday.
Among the problems with the lawsuit: It says Nassar was Davis doctor in 1992 when the rape occurred. In fact, Nassar – a former MSU doctor who abused hundreds of patients – was still in the medical school in 1992, and it is unclear how he might have treated Davis for a 1992 knee injury.
However, a legal expert said that it is "very common" to have errors and disagreements in an action before the expiration of the limitation period.
"It happens all the time when a plaintiff comes at the last minute to a lawyer and the lawyer tries to meet a deadline," said Lauren Rousseau, a professor at the Cooley Law School, which teaches about civil cases
"But you have to go back and fix it," Roussau said about errors and inconsistencies, and these corrections are usually about a changed complaint.
Davis's lawsuit was filed on Monday, September 10th. On the last day that Nassar victims died between 1996 and June 2016, a lawsuit filed after Michigan's statute of limitations could be filed.
Nassar-inspired legislation does not cover the 1992 rape case
Jordan K. Merson, the New York lawyer who wrote the lawsuit, "is not taking any media questions at the time," said the woman who called Merson's Manhattan office.
The plaintiff, Erika Davis of California, and Martha Ludwig, a former MSU field hockey trainer referred to in the lawsuit, also could not be reached for comment.
Michigan State University declined to answer questions that went beyond a statement released on Tuesday.
According to the complaint Davis was a 17-year-old in 1992, who participated in a field hockey scholarship at MSU. After a knee injury in a spring training Ludwig Davis appointed for treatment on Nassar, it is said in the lawsuit.
Davis was sexually assaulted during her dating with Nassar, the lawsuit says, including during an incident in which she says she was drugged and raped. She became pregnant as a result of the rape, the lawsuit states, and the pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
The lawsuit also alleges that Davis told her trainer about the rape and that Ludwig went to the sports department where Perles intervened to stop the investigation.
Lawsuit alleges that Nassar raped MSU athletes in 1992; Perles covered it up
Perles, now an MSU trustee who did not respond to requests for commentary, was the chief football coach of MSU at that time and was also the university's athletic director before Baker took over in May 1992.
Davis also claims that she went to the MSU Police Department a few months later and also refused to investigate.
The lawsuit says that Davis lost her sports scholarship after she went to the police. It also indicates that Ludwig lost her job after confronting Perles.
To the questions about the lawsuit:
1. Nassar was not a doctor in 1992.
The lawsuit says when Davis Nassar saw in 1992, "he was a renowned orthopedic sports physician who was respected in the gymnast community and the team doctor of the United States Turning Team."
In fact, Nassar was still a student at the College of Osteopathy of MSU in 1992. He was only after his graduation in 1993 doctor.
Nassar made a name for himself in the sports world in 1996 when he first became a team doctor for the US Olympic Gymnastics Team. He was hired in 1997 by MSU as a sports physician.
Before becoming a doctor, Nassar worked for years as a sports coach and it is possible that he treated Davis in that capacity. But it is unclear whether he was on MSU's payroll at this time.
2. Michigan State had a new athletic director when Perles reportedly intervened.
According to the lawsuit, Davis told her trainer Ludwig about the rape and Ludwig "confronted" Nassar in May 2018.
The coach then complained about what the Defendant Nassar had done to applicant Athletic Director at Michigan State University, and George Perles, former Athletic Director at Michigan State University, intervened, "and stopped an investigation, the lawsuit alleges.
"That makes no sense," said Baker, who became the first female athlete on May 18, 1992 MSU.
She stubbornly denies that she has ever heard of Davis or her allegations before this week, saying that Perles would not have been able to intervene if he had already left the AD job.
"I have never heard a breath about this situation," she said. "That must have happened before I got there, it would be impossible for me to forget that."
But if it happened while Perles was still sporting director, Baker said she was "confused" why Davis and / or Ludwig never came to her.
"I have trouble understanding why I did not hear from anyone in the spring or summer of 1992," Baker said.
Baker, now living in Florida, said she certainly acted. "Rape is a crime," Baker said. "How could anyone hear those words and say, 'This is not my problem?'
In addition, she said, the investigation of a sexual assault reported by a sports student was required under Title IX – and Baker was an expert and outspoken proponent of federal law.
"Those who did not report broke the law," she said of Davis's allegations. "My approach was to investigate, if you have heard even a rumor of a sexual assault."
3. Baker, not Perles, was the sporting director when Davis allegedly went to the MSU police.
From the lawsuit: "In October 1992, plaintiff Erika and her friends went to the Michigan State University Police Department and reported the rape, and the police told them that since becoming an athlete, she had had to report this to the sports department.
"The detective has told them explicitly that he is powerless to investigate everything that's happening in the sports department and goes into the sports department," the complaint said. Plaintiff Erika explained that the sports department had already dismissed her and the sergeant responded that George Perles was a "powerful man" and she should just drop him. "
In October 1992, Baker was the athletic director of the MSU for five months, and she said that the MSU police had known or should have known that Baker had assisted Davis in filing a lawsuit against Nassar.
It is unclear why the MSU police would address Perles, MSU's head coach at the time, about a rape case involving a field hockey player and an MSU medical student.
Perles "had nothing to do with it in October 1992," Baker said.
4. The lawsuit suggests that Ludwig, MSU's field hockey trainer, may have been fired for confronting MSU officials over the alleged rape. But Ludwig remained another season coach.
This part of the lawsuit is especially confusing. After Ludwig had heard of the rape, according to the lawsuit, "George Perles, former athletic director of the defendants Michigan State University intervened and the charges were dropped against the coach, but she was forced to return the video, resign, and sign a secrecy Approval."
The reference to a video includes an alleged video of Nassar attacking Davis.
The lawsuit does not explain the "charges" that are levied against the bus or the reason for a non-disclosure agreement.
As for the implication that Ludwig was forced to resign: MSU records show that Ludwig was in the fall of 1992, the field hockey coach. She left after this year a 6-14 season. Ludwig had a record of 20-57-5 during her four years at MSU.
Baker said she does not remember Ludwig, including the circumstances of her departure, and says that the athletic director of MSU did not have the unilateral authority to fire the field hockey coach overseen by an associate athletic director.
5. The lawsuit suggests Davis was pressured by "her coach" not to report the attack.
From the lawsuit: "Plaintiff Erika was pressured by her coach and the sports department not to report this incident, and she was told she would lose her field hockey scholarship."
This statement seems to contradict the earlier allegation of the lawsuit that Ludwig went to the administration to report the rape.
"Who told Davis that she could lose her scholarship?" Said Baker.
Baker said her strong inclination is to believe victims when it comes to sexual assault. In this lawsuit, she said, "I'm not giving judgment, I'm trying to put pieces of the puzzle together and there are many points of helplessness."
Minor discrepancies may occur in the retelling of an event, especially if the event was traumatic to a person. Jim Hopper, a teaching assistant in psychology at the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who studies the neurobiology of trauma and sexual abuse.
People often use contextual clues from their past to remember details about an important event, Hopper said. As the victims are asked for a concrete retelling of a raid, "they partially reconstruct things without knowing what they're doing," he said, adding that those details that were emotionally significant and central to the time were in the making Generally stay consistent.
In the case of Davis's lawsuit against Michigan State, Hopper said that it is also possible that lawyers, when trying to meet the deadline, confused elements of the victim's story or facts about the events.
"It could have nothing to do with the victim's memory," he said.
Rousseau said that lawyers filing a civil lawsuit in federal court "must make reasonable inquiries and ensure that they have evidence of their facts."
However, she said that the standard of "reasonable investigation" depends on the circumstances, and judges take into account when a lawyer has only a few days to investigate a claimant's claim.
Davis and her lawyer now have 21 days from 10 September to file an amended complaint that corrects errors in the original filing, Rousseau said.
There is also a 21-day window to submit another corrected complaint after MSU has given its response to the lawsuit.
"Even if there's a mistake in a lawsuit, there's a way to clean it up," she said.
MLive reporter Lauren Gibbons contributed to this report.