HOUSTON — All civil lawsuit trial proceedings between 22 women and Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson are expected to be pushed to 2023, two sources familiar with communications between attorneys handling the litigation told Yahoo Sports.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing 22 women suing Watson for alleged sexual misconduct or sexual assault, and Rusty Hardin, who is Watson’s lead defense attorney, have not been able to come to an agreement on multiple issues, the sources said. The result has pushed the timeline for proceedings to a point that it would now likely violate the agreed-upon moratorium on cases between Aug. 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023.
Among the issues: Buzbee and Hardin have not been able to come to an agreement on which suit should be heard first between plaintiffs Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley. Both sides also have more discovery ahead in the cases, and Watson still has a swath of depositions remaining, including at least six in June.
Arguably the biggest hangup remaining — aside from the court and vacation schedules for Buzbee and Hardin — is the manner of presentation in the cases could make the trials significantly longer than expected. The sources said Buzbee is considering introducing evidence of other plaintiffs’ allegations in each individual proceeding, which would then lead to Hardin responding to each allegation individually during cross examination and with presentations of evidence. Ultimately, one source said that back-and-forth could “stretch out a trial 6 to 8 weeks.”
If that’s an accurate timeline, it means Watson’s first civil trial would have to begin proceedings by June 1, in hopes of wrapping up arguments by the beginning of the moratorium on cases on Aug. 1. It also means that if all 22 cases go to court, Watson could be tied up in legal proceedings well beyond 2023.
For now, it means all of Watson’s 22 civil cases will be bumped into 2023, with the first trial dates set for March.