Monday entailed a number of developments in the Deshaun Watson litigation, with three new lawsuits officially filed and another accuser who has not yet sued but has told her story to SI.com.
Along the way, Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, issued a statement in response to the claim that Watson has deleted Instagram messages and that he has contacted massage therapists regarding a possible settlement. After taking a closer look at the things said, and not said, by Hardin, his statement requires further analysis.
The various sentences from the statement are addressed below.
“Like a lot of people, Deshaun regularly deletes past Instagram messages. That said, he has not deleted any messages since March 15th, the day before the first lawsuit was filed.”
These first two sentences expressly state that Watson has deleted no Instagram messages since the day before the first lawsuit was filed against Watson. They imply that Watson possibly deleted past Instagram messages after becoming aware of settlement demands/litigation threats, which happened (according to attorney Tony Buzbee) roughly a month before the first case was filed. It’s possible that Watson deleted potentially incriminating (in his view) Instagram messages after becoming aware of the potential lawsuits but before the first case was filed.
“We categorically deny that he has reached out directly to his accusers in an attempt to settle these cases.”
The presence of the word “directly” implies that indirect efforts to initiate settlement discussions may have occurred.
“Opposing counsel’s continued statements that these cases aren’t about money do not square with the facts in at least two of these cases.”
Buzbee’s claim that the cases aren’t about money continues to be disingenuous. The civil justice system issues relief in three ways: (1) through orders that tell people what to do or not do (injunctions); (2) through decisions that resolve clear, existing disputes between parties (declaratory judgments); or (3) through verdicts that require one party to pay the other party money.
The cases filed by Buzbee on behalf of 19 plaintiffs and counting seek money. His constant reference to the minimum jurisdictional amount of $500 represents the floor, not the ceiling. The ceiling ultimately is whatever a jury will award and a judge will approve.
“It is incredibly irresponsible to continue to make these types of false allegations in this avalanche of anonymous lawsuits, particularly while we are still trying to find out who the accusers are. We will address these issues, and others raised in these cases, in our formal response to the court in the coming weeks.”
Hardin’s statement sweeps broadly here, allowing a reasonable observer to conclude that he’s describing as false the entirety of the allegations against Watson in all 19 cases. It’s possible Hardin is referring only to Buzbee’s claim that the cases aren’t about money or that Watson is deleting Instagram messages or that he’s contacting accusers in an effort to settle the cases. Regardless, it’s easy to read Hardin’s statement as a reiteration of a belief that all accusers against Watson are not telling the truth. With 19 accusers and counting, that becomes very hard to believe.
Also, Hardin’s reference to a “formal response to the court” suggests there will be no attempt to quickly resolve the cases — possibly because Buzbee would attached a premium to any early settlement, given that it would allow Watson to move forward with his NFL career and to avoid any possibility of criminal prosecution. Finally, it’s possible that Hardin’s “formal response to the court” will commence with an attack on the fact that all 19 plaintiffs have sued under the Jane Doe pseudonym, with Hardin asking the court to compel the individuals to be identified or, alternatively, to dismiss the cases.
Wherever it goes from here, both sides seem to be prepared for what could be a protracted fight. In some situations, that’s a necessary prerequisite to setting the stage for a mutually satisfactory resolution. That continues to be the best outcome — a full and formal mediation session in which all parties are heard, all parties have what feels like their day in court, and all parties are satisfied with the final outcome.