Two of the 22 women that are suing Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for sexual misconduct during massage sessions have amended their lawsuits to add claims of negligence and gross negligence. Their argument is that Watson was well aware of his intentions and sexual proclivities, but took no steps to prevent them from occurring. Tony Buzbee, the lead attorney for the 22 women said more of the lawsuits will be adding negligence claims.
“Deshaun Watson has denied he acted intentionally; we believe strongly that we will prove he did,” Buzbee said. In a statement this week. “We have also added a claim for negligence allowing a jury to assess liability for unreasonable and imprudent conduct as well. This claim is just another through which the jury can assess liability and damages against him. We will likely add this claim for most of the cases, although perhaps not all.”
Claims of negligence and gross negligence are important because they allow for the scope of discovery to widen. A wider scope of discovery means more possible evidence to support the lawsuits can be gathered before trial, increasing damages if awarded in the plaintiffs favor.
At this stage there are no criminal charges against Watson. These lawsuits are all civil, which means any punitive measures against the embattled quarterback will be financial. Watson has made it clear to this point that he won’t settle, and will defend himself against the allegations. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the women are lying, out for money and there were “sometimes consensual encounters.”
The new negligence claims have already paid dividends in a pretrial motion this week. One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs wanted Watson to be compelled to list all women who gave him massages since 2019, other than those already documented.
Judge Rabeea Sultan Collier ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, compelling Watson to provide a history of women who gave him massages. Judge Collier also ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor stating Watson must answer questions regarding sexual activities with 18 additional therapists who came to his defense about his massage habits last year.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs are undoubtedly looking to establish a pattern of behavior with Watson, and paint a picture of a man who seeks out massages from women with the intended purpose of engaging in sexual acts.
One instance could possibly be misinterpreted, though unlikely. But 22? That’s way too many. The legal gymnastics Watson’s attorneys will attempt during this lawuit will be interesting.
Regardless, these cases will not be resolved anytime soon. Both sides have an agreement not to schedule trials on these cases from August 1, 2022, through March 1, 2023, so as not to interfere with the football season.
Watson signed a record-setting contract of $230 million guaranteed for five years with the Browns last month. His status is still up in the air, as he can be suspended for up to eight games for violation of the league’s code of conduct policy. The league usually prefers to wait until the legal process has run its course, but waiting until 2023 might be untenable.