The battle has been joined.
After weeks of press conferences and lawyer statements and a skirmish over whether the plaintiffs would proceed in their own names (they now are) in cases alleging misconduct during massage sessions, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has filed a formal answer to the first lawsuit that was filed against him last month. The document filed by Watson’s lawyer in the case filed by Ashley Solis calls the entire effort a “money grab.”
The document, titled “Deshaun Watson’s Original Answer,” seems to have been written much more for the media than for the court. On the first page, it summarizes alleged facts that Watson’s lawyers have learned since obtaining the names of the plaintiffs. Watson, through his lawyers, contends that: (1) eight of the plaintiffs “bragged about, praised and were excited about massaging” Watson; (2) seven of the plaintiffs “willingly worked or offered to work” with Watson “after their alleged incidents”; (3) three plaintiffs “lied about the number of sessions they actually had” with Watson; (4) five plaintiffs “lied about their alleged trauma and resulting harm”; (4) five plaintiffs “told others they want to get money out of” Watson; and (5) five plaintiffs have “scrubbed or entirely deleted their social media accounts.”
At the top of page 2 of the document comes this contention: “It was not until the plaintiffs saw an opportunity for a money grab that they changed their stories to convert therapy sessions they bragged about to friends and family to something much more nefarious.” In the next paragraph, the document alleges that the characterizations of Watson’s conduct “range from being misleading, to fraudulent, to slanderous.”
The document paints all plaintiffs with that brush, claiming that all of them are engaged in an effort to secure money from Watson. The document also lists form pages 3 through 5 specific issues with the allegations of numerous plaintiffs, even though the document was filed in a case relevant only to the allegations made by Ashley Solis.
As to her allegations, the document relies solely on a “General Denial,” without responding the the various allegations on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. Presumably, Watson will file a similar document in response to each of the other 21 cases.
The goal by taking such an aggressive position could be to motivate the plaintiffs to settle, before the discovery process results in the exploration of documents and the interrogation of each plaintiff, under oath. Unless the cases are resolved, that’s precisely what will happen. All of the plaintiffs, as well as Watson, will have aggressive questioning and other scrutiny as both sides attempt to prepare for an eventual trial in each of these 22 cases.