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Tony Buzbee Announces Settlements in 20 of 24 Lawsuits Against Watson

In the first real movement of figurative earth in the Deshaun Watson saga since the trade of Watson to the Cleveland Browns back in March, Tony Buzbee announced in a statement on Tuesday that 20 of the 24 plaintiffs he is representing have reached a settlement in their litigation against the former Houston Texans quarterback:

Here is the news portion of Buzbee’s statement, for those who can’t view that tweet with the sfull tatement embedded:

“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” Buzbee said in a statement. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”

“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story. Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other docket obligations and the court’s schedule.”

I have two big  takeaways from Buzbee’s statement. First, Ashley Solis, who was the very first plaintiff to come forward and who appeared in the HBO Real Sports feature on this litigation, remains entrenched in pursuing legal action against Watson. Now, she may still settle, but for now, it would appear that she wants her day in court.

Second, the amounts of the settlements are confidential, so in essence, these settlements are sealed. This should at least slow the flow of negative discussion surrounding Watson somewhat. At this point, with the NFL still waiting to issue a punishment, anything Watson can do to stem the negative P.R. tide is recommended.

A few further thoughts here on what is a 180 degree reversal of course for Watson, who has insisted that he wanted to fight these cases and clear his name:

It’s not full relief for the Browns, but it helps
If the Browns had to do it over again, they may have made a similar demand of Watson that the Dolphins did back in November, when they had a deal arranged to acquire Watson. At that time, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross insisted that Watson settle all of the lawsuits against him, 22 at that time. Watson was unable to do that, but when it was announced he would not be prosecuted criminally in March, it was a land rush to acquire Watson, a land rush that was “won” by the Browns. Since that trade, it’s been a tsunami of negative attention for Watson and the franchise. These settlements reduce the number of avenues for more negative P.R. significantly. Watson and the Browns aren’t out of the woods yet, but this certainly helps.

Big remaining question No. 1 — Are there more plaintiffs coming still?
Keep in mind, however, that four plaintiffs remain, including Solis, who has been very convincing in conveying her side of the story in each opportunity she’s been given, once at a press conference and once on HBO. Buzbee, though, did make a couple promises last week — he vowed to add the Texans to the lawsuits as a defendant, and vowed that a 25th and 26th lawsuit would be filed soon. To date, neither of those things has happened. I don’t know if these 20 settlements makes it more likely or less likely that women come forward, but the possibility of more litigation against Watson may be something the Browns have to live with until the two-year statute of limitations runs out in 2023 sometime. As for the Texans, they’ve said nothing about the possibility of being added to the lawsuit, as club policy is to comment only once the lawsuits have added them officially, if that ever happens.

Big remaining question No. 2 — Does this, in any way, affect Watson’s pending discipline from the NFL?
I’ll let NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy answer that:

These settlements shouldn’t affect his suspension one iota. Hell, four open lawsuits, and the possibility of more coming still, is nothing to sneeze at.

Rusty Hardin’s comments on SportsRadio 610 may have put Watson in a rough spot
Just to reset, here is the audio of Hardin’s comments from my radio show a couple weeks ago:

My guess is that Buzbee was salivating at the thought of Watson’s lawyer trying to justify Watson’s alleged behavior as “not a crime,” when the criminality of the cases had already been determined. The civil cases have a much lower threshold for liability/guilt, and the NFL’s court of punishment doesn’t even really have rules. It’s all about P.R. This felt like the day where Watson’s cases became far less winnable.

The next big piece of figurative earth to get moved will likely be Watson’s punishment, and for the Texans, who own the Browns’ first round picks in the next two drafts, the longer, the better.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.




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