The attorney for the women who are suing Deshaun Watson has asked a Texas judge to force the NFL quarterback to appear for pretrial depositions this month after Watson claimed his new job in Cleveland prevented him from doing so.
The attorney, Tony Buzbee, had wanted Watson to testify in depositions this month in Houston, where Watson played before being traded recently to the Cleveland Browns.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, previously argued Watson has a new “full-time job that requires his presence in Ohio Monday through Friday.” Therefore, Hardin said Watson was not available to testify in depositions in Houston on the dates noticed by the plaintiffs for five days in early May.
Buzbee slammed that notion in his motion Friday to compel Watson’s deposition.
“Defendant’s ‘work’ is throwing a football,” Buzbee’s filing stated. “No doubt that is important work, certainly from his point of view. However, such work is not so critical, vital, or crucial that it prevents him from appearing for deposition within this Court’s scheduling order.”
Buzbee represents 22 women who have sued Watson in Houston and accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions from early 2020 to March 2021. Watson has denied wrongdoing. Hardin has said the women are lying and out for money and that there were “sometimes consensual encounters.”
Two grand juries looked at a combined 10 complaints involving some of these women and declined to indict Watson on criminal charges. But these civil lawsuits press on, and now this dispute shows how they could impact him. The judge could order him to appear as requested by Buzbee.
“Defendant states … that he ‘recently moved out of state and currently lives in Ohio,’ ” Buzbee’s filing stated. “That argument is irrelevant and meritless. As the Court is aware, several Plaintiffs in this lawsuit also live out of state, and most live paycheck to paycheck unlike Defendant Watson. Yet, each made themselves available for deposition when asked, taking time off from their full-time jobs, flying into Houston, and, even though they are single mothers, leaving their young children behind. The Plaintiffs did not use living out of state as an excuse to avoid deposition.”
Buzbee noted that even though some plaintiffs suggested they wanted to appear for their own depositions via Zoom on the internet, Watson’s legal team “relentlessly and aggressively insisted that Plaintiffs travel to Houston for their depositions.”
Buzbee also cited the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL players that says teams can’t schedule more than four workouts per week in the offseason for any player.
Watson “only ‘works’ throwing a football four days a week at this point, not five,” Buzbee’s filing states, implying that Watson has the time to appear for his depositions.
The Harris County judge in the case, Rabeea Collier, could take up the matter soon. Hardin recently filed his own motion to quash the depositions that he said were “unilaterally noticed” by the plaintiffs’ attorneys for five days in May on behalf of 10 of the 22 women. In Watson’s defense, Hardin pointed out that two of those women have not sat for depositions themselves to assert their allegations under oath, as was required. That was another reason Hardin wanted those dates quashed.
Buzbee said Watson’s legal team failed to provide alternative dates as required and was asked eight times for dates to conduct his deposition but none were given. Buzbee said he noticed the dates for May to make sure it was completed within the scheduling order of the court. In response, Hardin provided deposition dates for Watson more than 10 days after filing his motion to quash, including some outside the cutoff for the discovery for pretrial evidence, according to Buzbee.
“This Court should deny Defendant’s Motion to Quash and order Defendant to appear for deposition in the month of May,” Buzbee’s motion stated.
Hardin didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Watson, 26, was traded in March to the Browns, who gave him a record contract of $230 million guaranteed over five years.
“Despite what he thinks, Defendant Watson is not above the law nor is he is above the rules,” Buzbee’s filing said. “Defendant Watson must present himself for deposition on dates during the discovery period.”
The cases might not go to trial until after February 2023, but Buzbee noted the first plaintiff, Ashley Solis, would like to try her case in July.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: email@example.com