The bad news is that, barring one or more settlements, the 22 civil lawsuits pending against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will continue to linger throughout the 2022 calendar year. The good news is that none of the cases will go to trial during the 2022 NFL season.
Via Adam Ferrise of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the lawyers handling the cases have agreed that no trials will be scheduled between August 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023.
Tony Buzbee, who represents the 22 plaintiffs, told the Plain Dealer that he hopes to get a trial set for July. If that isn’t feasible, he hopes to have all 22 cases ready to go in March 2023.
Lingering over the entire controversy is the question of whether the case proceeds with one trial involving all claims or 22 different trials. We’ve previously gotten the sense from talking to persons with knowledge of the litigation that the cases would be tried one at a time. For 22 trials, that could take most if not all of the 2023 offseason, with one case after another after another after another.
At some point, Watson needs to focus on settling specific cases. A deal could have been had for 18 of the claims last October, with four holdouts. Watson didn’t want to settle some but not all of the claims. Whether he should have felt differently at the time, he should reconsider that position now, settling every case he can in order to whittle the litigation down to as few cases as possible.
It’s not good for Watson, the Browns, the NFL, or Cleveland fans to have this situation linger. The sooner it’s resolved, the better. It’s looking like, barring settlements, the controversy will still be lingering a year from now.
The best approach would be to find a retired judge with the skills, the savvy, and the gravitas to get all parties in a room, and to start clunking the attorneys’ heads together until all of the cases are resolved to the satisfaction of the 22 plaintiffs and Watson.