CLEVELAND — The civil cases being leveled against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will not go to trial during the upcoming NFL season.
Watson is facing civil suits from 22 different women accusing him of sexual misconduct. USA TODAY was first to report that Watson's attorney and the attorney representing the plantiffs have agreed not to schedule trials on these cases from August 1, 2022 through March 1, 2023. The cases might not be resolved until at least next year, unless they are settled before then out of court.
While those cases may not go to trial this year, USA TODAY also reports two of the 22 women accusing Watson have now amended their lawsuits to add claims of negligence and gross negligence, saying Watson didn't protect them while knowing his intentions.
"So what they’re claiming here is that he was aware of his sexual proclivities, aware that this is something that he might do," explains legal professor Michael Gabelman. "And he failed to take steps to notify these women as he was seeking to get massages."
Legally speaking, adding the claims allows the women to seek more damages for wrongdoing. It also allows attorneys to seek more evidence ahead of the trial.
The new claims come just days after a judge also ordered Watson to disclose any sexual encounters he may have had with 18 other massage therapists who came out in support of him.
Gabelman says the new claims, along with the judge's order, don't help Watson's case as he'd prefer to stay silent. "This is definitely not a good step for Mr. Watson. He definitely does not want to have to open the air with every encounter he’s had with these 18 women who came out in support of him," Gabelman adds.
Watson has just 30 days to respond to comply with the judge's order. It's one of many steps in these lawsuits which could easily drag on through Watson's time with the Browns.
"Civil suits have a tendency of taking years and years and years, as opposed to criminal actions which resolve rather quickly, relatively speaking," Gabelman says.
Watson has said he doesn’t want to settle, claiming he is innocent of any wrongdoing and would much rather clear his name. But for Browns fans it’s difficult to just enjoy football when this situation keeps coming up.
It is also important to note that the agreement not to hold any civil trials during the NFL season doesn't necessarily mean Watson is free from potential punishment from the league. The NFL is conducting its own investigation and if they decide Watson's conduct was unbecoming of a player in the league, they can issue a suspension regardless of where these cases are in the legal system.
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