Penn State settlement talks with Jerry Sandusky victims to resume in 2013

mdawson@centredaily.comDecember 21, 2012 

— Penn State will not meet its self-imposed deadline to settle claims with the victims of Jerry Sandusky by the end of this year, and talks will restart next year, the university said Friday.

Kenneth R. Feinberg, one of the attorneys Penn State retained in September to settle the claims out of court, said Friday that the sides had made “excellent progress” so far.

“But each claim is complex and requires extended negotiation in order to secure comprehensive settlements,” Feinberg wrote in an email. “ The facilitation continues, and I hope for progress early next year.”

Feinberg said 20 to 25 men are part of the talks, and possibly two of three more will be included if their claims are corroborated.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson said he was happy with how far the negotiations have advanced.

“We are pleased with the progress so far and remain hopeful that the process will result in settlement of many of the civil cases so that the victims will not have to be drawn through the legal process,” Erickson said in a statement.

Attorneys not affiliated with the case have said resolving the claims and lawsuits could end up costing Penn State tens of millions of dollars. Penn State is already on the hook for more than $80 million in costs that have arisen from the fallout of the Sandusky scandal.

One of the victims who filed suit against Penn State is Aaron Fisher, the young man from Clinton County whose report of abuse led to the investigation into Sandusky. Fisher sued in Philadelphia court, and earlier this year, a judge stayed the suit at Penn State’s request.

Penn State has been sued by other men who have alleged that Sandusky abused them but did not testify at the trial. Those have been stayed as well.

Feinberg has a history of handling high-profile settlements. He oversaw the Sept. 11, 2001, victims compensation fund as well as the BP Deepwater Horizon Fund to compensate those affected by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Before Penn State retained Feinberg’s firm, university officials repeatedly said they wanted to work with Sandusky’s victims for a resolution. The university was criticized for moving too slowly.

Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for three alleged victims, said this summer that his clients had only seen “public relations and words” from Penn State and said the hiring of Feinberg’s firm was a positive step.

Penn State’s cost for Feinberg’s work is not known yet, as the university has not received a bill, a spokesman said.

Attorneys for the victims have said the Freeh report, which concluded senior Penn State leaders concealed abuse allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001, made the university liable for damages.

The senior leaders, ex-president Graham Spanier, ex-athletic director Tim Curley and retired administrator Gary Schultz, have been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. The Freeh report also faulted deceased former head coach Joe Paterno.

Sandusky is in solitary confinement at the state prison in Greene County, serving a 30- to 60-year sentence for sexually abusing 10 young boys.

Sandusky’s defense attorneys have asked the trial judge to overturn the verdict, and the attorneys have a hearing next month where they will argue they did not have enough time to prepare for his trial.

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