Penn State trustees OK process for settlements

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Attorneys facilitating settlements between Penn State University and victims of retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky told university trustees Friday that discussions are proceeding with lawyers representing at least 20 people.

Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw compensation to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and partner Michael Rozen reported on their role as the board of trustees met to authorize a subcommittee to approve settlements related to the case.

"All of the counsel for all of the victims so far have engaged with Ken and me in the utmost of good faith," Mr. Rozen said. "All of them have agreed to engage in a process, and we are moving that process forward as we speak."

The attorneys emphasized that they are working to reach individual settlements with the victims.

"Unlike our work in things like the 9/11 victim compensation fund or the BP oil spill fund, this is not a process where Penn State has instructed us: Here's an aggregate amount of money, go allocate it," Mr. Feinberg said. "There is no fund. We have separate individual cases, and Penn State and each plaintiff lawyer and client will evaluate the settlement terms and conditions that are being offered, and each side will decide for itself whether in that particular case we want to reach a consensual resolution."

The board went on to authorize a subcommittee to approve payments if settlements are reached with those abused by Sandusky. In June, a jury found Sandusky, 68, guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse in incidents dating as far back as 1997. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Legal counsel had advised the board that the university charter and bylaws allow the administration to approve settlements of civil claims without action by the board, said chairwoman Karen Peetz. But the board felt its involvement was warranted, she said.

"Under the special circumstances surrounding these cases, and in view of the fact that the amount of the settlements individually and in the aggregate could be significant, some level of board oversight is appropriate and advisable," Ms. Peetz said.

The university will disclose the aggregate amount of compensation but not the size of individual settlements, she said. No deadline has been set for victims to come forward with claims against Penn State.

She said the board had not determined if the public would be told when settlements are reached.

The measure was approved by all participating board members, including university president Rodney Erickson.

The trustees continue to believe insurance will cover costs related to the settlements, Ms. Peetz said.

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Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com.


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