Former US gymnast Sabrina Vega sues Karolyis for $1 million over Nassar scandal

HOUSTON – A former member of the U.S. Gymnast Women's team is suing the people who ran the team's training facility.

Court records showed that Sabrina Vega is named as the plaintiff in a lawsuit that was filed Tuesday in 278th District Court.

By the time Sabrina Vega was 16, former team doctor Larry Nassar had sexually assaulted her hundreds of times, according to the lawsuit. But unlike similar litigation against the ex-physician, Vega also targeted the owners of the training facitlity, Karolyi Ranch. 

The defendants include Bela and Marta Karolyi, Karolyi Training Camps, USA Gymnastics Inc., the United States Olympic Committee and Larry Nassar.

The 25 page lawsuit says Bela and Marta Karolyi, who have operated the Karolyi Ranch training camp in Huntsville for decades, "wholly failed in their duty to provide a safe environment free from sexual assault, molestation, and abuse"

Vega was a member of the USA Gymnastics Women's National Team from 2008-13, the lawsuit said. Vega said the abuse began when she was 12, according to the suit. 

"The Karolyi Defendants were responsible for the ranch and allowed Nassar to be alone in cabins with Vega and other gymnasts which allowed him to sexually abuse them," the suit read. "Upon information and belief, the Karolyi Defendants turned a blind eye to Nassar’s sexual abuse of Vega and other children."

“What’s implied in that is that a reasonable person would have known or should have known,” legal analyst Chris Downey said. “If they can get the proof to that level, they can stay in court and try to make their case to a jury.”

The Karolyis told NBC News they knew nothing of Nassar's abuse. In a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics filed in April, the Karolyis said they only found out about allegations of Nassar’s abuse in 2016.

But not knowing is part of the problem, said Vega's attorney, Benny Rush.

"These folks let in a predator," Rush told KPRC2. "They let the fox in the henhouse."

"USA Gymnastics, the USOC and the Karolyis failed to protect me and the other athletes in their care and I believe they should be held accountable," Vega said in a statement.

Vega is asking for more than $1 million.

“What happens in most of these cases, after a healthy amount of discovery is well, of course, they settle,” Downey said. 

The Karolyi Ranch served as the training facility for national and Olympic gymnasts for more than 30 years.

The facility was shuttered after Nassar, who served as the team’s doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting minors. He has been accused of molesting more than 200 people over the course of nearly 30 years.

“A court of law has determined that he’s guilty of these offenses, that’s settled,” Downey said. “but the degree to which these agencies and the Karolyis were involved, that’s still not determined.”

About the Authors: