Judge gives new plaintiff in latest Deshaun Watson lawsuit 24 hours to give name

BySarah Barshop ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Judge gives new Deshaun Watson plaintiff 24 hours to give name
The lawsuit, filed under the pseudonym Jane Doe, is the 26th known civil case filed against Watson accusing him of inappropriate sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massages.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Judge Rabeea Sultan Collier ruled Monday that the plaintiff who filed a civil lawsuit against Deshaun Watson last week has 24 hours to amend her petition to include her name if she wants to go forward with the suit.

The ruling was made in an emergency hearing held in the 113th District Court in Harris County. During the hearing, Watson's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, asked the court to order counsel to provide the name of the plaintiff and sanctions for not originally providing it.

The lawsuit, filed under the pseudonym Jane Doe, is the 26th known civil case filed against Watson accusing him of inappropriate sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massages. The previous lawsuits had been filed by attorney Tony Buzbee.

Hardin said during the hearing that his legal team compared the latest action to one of Buzbee's cases, saying, "You see in that red line that they simply copied Mr. Buzbee's pleading almost in toto.

"And the relevance to that is that Mr. Buzbee's case is (one of the cases) in which the court ordered him to replead and give us the name," Hardin said.

"There is no question they would not know they had to tell us the name."

Hardin's team spent 72 hours trying to get the name, he said, adding, "And therefore, we would like to ask for the name and we would like sanctions for making us go through this."

In April 2021, 22 women who had filed lawsuits against Watson amended their petitions to include their names after two judges ruled they must do so to continue their cases. One of the lawsuits that had been filed against Watson at the time was dropped.'

Michelle Kornblith, the lawyer representing the latest plaintiff, said she would provide the defendant with her client's name but didn't want to go public with it.

"We actually have no problem letting them know who our plaintiff is but we would request either a confidentiality order or a protection order," Kornblith said. "We're already getting hate emails and mail from the minute this was filed and we're concerned for her safety. And like I said, we have no problem telling him who the plaintiff is, so long as we know she'll be safe."

Collier did not rule on the possibility of sanctions during the hearing.

Watson settled 23 of the lawsuits against him during the offseason, but one still remains active, according to Buzbee.

Watson is serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the league, on massage therapists. On Aug. 18, the NFL and NFL Players Association reached a settlement on Watson's suspension. He was also fined $5 million and has had to undergo a mandatory treatment program.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Friday that Watson's 11-game suspension will stand, but he could face more discipline if it is found he has further violated the league's code of conduct.

"Watson's status remains unchanged," McCarthy said. "We will monitor developments in the newly-filed litigation; and any conduct that warrants further investigation or possible additional sanctions would be addressed within the Personal Conduct Policy."

Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year. But Sue L. Robinson, an independent arbiter jointly appointed by the league and players' union, found that "the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault." Robinson concluded in her report that Watson's behavior was "egregious" and "predatory."

Watson was allowed to re-enter the Browns training facility this week after being banned since Aug. 30 as part of the settlement. He can't practice with the team again until Nov. 14. and won't be eligible to play until Week 13, when the Browns travel to face the Texans in Houston on Dec. 4.