When sued in civil court, the natural human response is to say, “Let’s sue them back.” It’s rarely a good idea to give in to that impulse.
The lawyer representing Patriots receiver Antonio Brown has yet to give that advice to his client; instead, attorney Darren Heitner seems to be embracing the idea of exercising the right to respond to the lawsuit for sexual assault and rape filed by Britney Taylor by turning the tables and suing her.
“Antonio Brown will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including exercising all of his rights in countersuits,” Heitner declared on Twitter.
On numerous occasions during 18 years of representing clients who had been sued, the client’s denial of wrongdoing came with anger. That anger manifested itself in a desire to make the person who filed the lawsuit experience the same helpless frustration that comes with being on the wrong end of a claim for monetary damages. Every time the client expressed a desire to proceed in that manner, I talked them out of it.
In most cases, there’s not much money to be obtained from the person filing the initial lawsuit. In most cases, a countersuit creates even harder feelings, making it more difficult to find an acceptable resolution short of a jury trial, if the respective strengths and weaknesses of the two opposing views of reality eventually make a compromise the right thing for everyone. Most importantly, if the situation goes sideways in court, the vindictiveness that flows from mounting a defense so aggressive that it includes suing the alleged victim of misconduct can spark a runaway jury, since it makes the defendant seem like someone who would indeed engage in predatory behavior.
In Brown’s case, the best move will be to refrain from filing a countersuit. The best move would be to defend the case on the merits, without trying to exact revenge in a way that will potentially make him look mean, aggressive, and ultimately capable of the things he’s accused of doing.
While for some lawyers a countersuit becomes a standard approach to defending a client because it potentially scares away a plaintiff and/or softens the plaintiff up to take less money in settlement, in a situation like this there are other angles to consider. Britney Taylor already has made clear her willingness to cooperate with the NFL, and the NFL already has said it will investigate. Hollow threats of countersuits may serve only to strengthen her resolve to share her experience with the league office — which could make it more difficult for Brown to avoid punishment from the league, and potentially banishment from the Patriots.
Or maybe it really will scare her away, if she’s not telling the truth about Brown. Still, if she’s not telling the truth about Brown, it’s far better to focus on proving that her story is wrong than trying to bully her into submission.