Deshaun Watson plaintiffs expand scope of massage lawsuits

Two of the women suing NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson amended their lawsuits this week to add allegations of negligence and gross negligence, arguing that Watson was aware of his own sexual inclinations during massage sessions but did not did not take precautions to prevent their recurrence.

By adding these new causes of action, they potentially expand the web of discoverable evidence they can obtain pre-trial and also add another avenue to recover damages in their lawsuits. They are among 22 women who sued Watson and accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions in 2020 and early 2021.

The 22 women’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday that further lawsuits will add causes of action for negligence and gross negligence.

“Deshaun Watson has denied acting intentionally; we strongly believe we will prove he did,” Buzbee said. “We have also added a negligence claim allowing a jury to also assess liability for unreasonable and reckless conduct. This claim is just another through which the jury can assess liability and damages against him. We will probably add this claim for most cases, but maybe not all.

HEARING: Judge rules Deshaun Watson must answer for any sexual history with other therapists

Nearly all of the suits otherwise have allegations of civil assault and emotional distress against Watson. Two others have complaints of sexual assault.

Adding the new negligence allegations “allows plaintiffs to broaden the scope of discovery,” said Kenneth Williams, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. “They will be able to ask any questions or search for information such as texts related to these claims. Second, it provides plaintiffs with another basis for recovery (of damages). Third, if plaintiffs prevail on claims of gross negligence, they may be awarded punitive damages, which are damages intended to punish the wrongdoer for their extreme conduct.

The 22 civil cases are entirely separate from the criminal trial of the grand jury, which recently declined to indict Watson on criminal charges in 10 cases reported to police.

The lawsuits continue in court in Houston, including on Tuesday, when an attorney for the two women with the new negligence allegations tried to use them to his advantage in a dispute over pretrial discovery evidence. . The question was whether Watson should be required to list every woman who has given him massages since 2019, other than those already documented.

“We actually alleged negligence and gross negligence,” plaintiffs’ attorney Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey told the judge during the hearing, which was streamed online. “It shows that he had noticed his sexual inclinations, and he went into it knowing that he had this tendency to want to act inappropriately around massage therapists.”

Watson’s attorney, Leah Graham, opposed the request, saying the information was too general and unrelated to the individual plaintiff’s allegations.

But Judge Rabeea Sultan Collier overturned the objection in favor of the plaintiffs, requiring Watson to provide a history of the women who gave him massages.

Watson, 26, has denied any wrongdoing and was recently traded from Houston to the Cleveland Browns, a team that agreed to give him a record-breaking $230 million contract guaranteed for five years. Her lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said the women lied, chased money and “sometimes consensual encounters”. But the NFL could still suspend him based on its own investigation.

The two women who added negligence allegations to their lawsuits agreed to come forward publicly last year to accuse Watson of misconduct: Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley, both massage therapists. They say Watson exposed himself and had his genitals touched during massage sessions in March and June 2020.

The new negligence allegations said they believe Watson’s conduct was intentional while noting that Watson denies acting intentionally.

“Thus, in the alternative, plaintiff alleges that Watson’s conduct was unreasonable and therefore negligent and grossly negligent,” the newly amended lawsuits state. “Defendant Watson owed plaintiff a duty of due diligence.”

They said Watson breached this duty in a number of ways, including “scheduling a massage to be alone with the plaintiff knowing his own sexual inclinations” and “failing to take precautions before the massage to prevent a recurrence of his conduct.” known history towards massage therapists”.

They said he also failed to warn them of “his inclinations and past conduct”.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys are trying to establish a pattern of his conduct during pretrial discovery. “If he was doing this with other massage therapists, it shows his motive,” Brandfield-Harvey said in court on Tuesday.

Watson must also answer whether he had sex with 18 therapists who came to his defense last year after the lawsuits were filed, according to a ruling by the same judge.

The two sides agreed not to schedule a trial on those cases from August 1 to March 1, 2023, helping Watson avoid them during the football season. This means that they might not be resolved until 2023 unless they are settled before then out of court.

Follow journalist Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

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