Last October, then-Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson could have settled all but four of the civil lawsuits pending against him. He wanted to resolve all of them or none of them.
This week, Watson reached a tentative settlement with all but four of the individuals who have sued him for sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. So what happens to the other four?
Attorney Tony Buzbee disclosed that the claims made by Ashley Solis, the first person to sue, will proceed. Once 20 of the 24 cases are dismissed, the identity of the other three remaining plaintiffs will be known.
There are two explanations for the failure to settle four of the cases. The plaintiffs either want more than Watson offered, or at this point they just want to go to trial, have their voices heard, and allow a jury to decide if Watson violated their rights.
As recently explained by Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, Solis may have the strongest case against Watson. Houston police detective Kamesha Baker recently testified to that effect, and Watson has admitted under oath that Solis had “watery eyes” at the end of the session.
“Ashley Solis actually had a text message after the massage that indicated there was some questionable activity there in which we thought, ‘OK, well, why would you text this if everything was fine?’ ” Baker testified, via Schrotenboer. “If everything was fine in the massage, why would you send her essentially an apology for the massage?”
Solis initiated the process, with Buzbee making a pre-lawsuit settlement demand on her behalf of $100,000. With that amount serving as an opening position, Buzbee undoubtedly was prepared to take less. But Watson’s camp (Rusty Hardin wasn’t involved at the time) refused to engage Buzbee and wanted him to make a new offer. As litigation goes, that’s a breach of etiquette even bigger than going straight from a double-dog dare to a triple-dog dare.
Lawyers resent being asked to bid against themselves. The process entails a rhythm, a back-and-forth. Watson’s representatives should have offered $20,000 or so, in order to flesh out Buzbee’s bottom line based on his next move.
And for those out there who insist this is “extortion,” it’s not. Pre-litigation settlement efforts happen all the time. There’s value in resolving claims before they become civil actions, for everyone. In this case, both sides would have benefited from a quiet, discreet effort to dispense justice.
Now that Solis has been forced to put her name, face, and voice on TV and elsewhere, maybe she’s ready to let the chips fall where they may at trial. That said, there’s quite possibly a number between $100,000 and, say, $1 million that would get her to end it now. She’s fully within her rights to make that decision — and it all could have been short-circuited if Watson’s representatives hadn’t been so short-sighted when the claim first came to their attention.