On the surface, Houston Texans’ decision to settle with a woman who sued the team because of her former quarterback Deshaun WatsonThe alleged misconduct and with 29 others who have not yet filed suit have no effect on Watson. The allegations against him — four are still pending, and, based on the Houston settlement, up to six who can still sue him — are unaffected. On a deeper level, there are pros and cons to settling in Houston.
The good news is that if/when cases against Texas are brought to trial, Watson will not be dragged into that litigation as a witness. He was likely to be questioned under oath before each trial (in the form of an affidavit), and no doubt he would have been called to testify at each trial. Even if he had settled all of the pending cases against him by then, he would face a difficult questioning from attorney Tony Busby and possibly from the team’s attorneys, based on a particular defense(s) developed and confirmed before a jury. The team could have tried to show that Watson did nothing wrong, and that the team, in turn, did nothing. Instead, the team could have tried to blame Watson, the one who should have been pursued to get compensation for any wrongdoing.
By the same token, leveling avoids what could have been a very awkward dynamic. If the cases against Texas are brought directly against the team and are not added to the existing cases (this is how the first case was presented), Texas will likely add Watson to the cases as a third-party defendant when formally responding to each lawsuit, arguing that Watson Responsible for any alleged damage incurred, not the team. The headline could easily have been, “Texas Sues Deshaun Watson.” Texas settlements avoid this procedural complexity.
The bad news is that for the four pending cases and the six potential additional cases, the settlements will help fund the ongoing litigation. Although the amount is unknown and may never be known, any amount paid to women who are still suing or who will sue Watson can be used to help pay for expenses in the four cases still pending against him. It could also encourage those who rejected compromise offers to hold on to their positions more firmly, and to insist on a public trial.
At this point, Watson and his attorney may be entitled to learn within the limits of the pending cases the amounts that the Texans have paid. The Texans and Busby would surely battle any such effort. Watson might argue, through his attorney, that the information could be relevant to the remaining lawsuit, and thus fair game of the discovery process. If the settlements are low, a possible argument would be that they show that the cases are weak. If settlements are high, Watson could try to get dollar-for-dollar credit against any judgment made against him. Once again, the team and Busby will surely fight any such attempt to file settlement amounts in open court.
Still a double-edged sword for Watson. And the more Texans paid, the more there seemed to be a reason to pay. The Texans knew about Watson’s alleged mistake and failed to stop him. that Watson had already been implicated in wrongdoing.
Regardless, the bottom line is that the situation, which was about to become hopelessly complicated with as many as 30 new lawsuits against Texas, has become streamlined. From an NFL perspective, that’s good news. He ensures that once the remaining cases against Watson are over, this long-running distraction will eventually come to an end.
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