The attorney representing 22 women suing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson says settlement talks between the two sides broke down before the NFL’s trade deadline because of language Watson’s legal team insisted they include in nondisclosure agreements.
“In what was submitted to us, there were nondisclosure agreements and many of the women pushed back on those,” attorney Tony Buzbee told Houston television station Fox 26 in an interview Tuesday evening.
Buzbee said he and his colleagues modified the language in the proposed nondisclosure agreements “substantially” but added that “there were still some women who said, ‘I’m never going to sign that.'”
He told Fox 26 that the NDAs were ultimately a “deal breaker” in efforts to settle the cases.
Buzbee’s interview is the first confirmation from either of the legal teams involved in Watson’s civil cases that the two sides had entered a period of mediation.
“Now that the heat is off I probably won’t be getting calls from the other side wanting to settle the case,” Buzbee said, a reference to the pressure involved in settling the lawsuits prior to the NFL’s Tuesday trade deadline.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, did not respond to ESPN’s request for comment about the settlement talks. In July, Hardin told ESPN that Watson would not sign any settlement that included a confidentiality agreement. “I do not want anybody to be saying that this guy paid off women to stay quiet,” he said at the time.
Buzbee also said in his interview with Fox 26 that Watson’s team appeared willing to settle a portion of the 22 civil cases.
“First it was, ‘We need to get 22 cases settled’ and then it was, ‘Well, maybe we can get 20 cases settled,’ and, finally, there was some discussion of maybe even less than that,” Buzbee said. “But based on the terms that were submitted to us, we weren’t going to get 22 settlements. Period.”
Watson is the defendant in 22 civil cases filed by women in four different states. The lawsuits allege that he sexually assaulted or behaved inappropriately during massage sessions. At least 10 women have filed complaints about Watson to the Houston Police Department and a criminal investigation is also ongoing.
“From my point of view, I’m looking forward to taking Mr. Watson’s testimony in February,” Buzbee said Tuesday.
“We’re going to prepare the cases for trial because, ultimately, people can commentate and give their opinion but the ultimate opinion that matters is 12 people that sit on a jury in Harris County,” he said. “You know, all these so-called experts, keyboard warriors who think they know what happened in those massage rooms, they don’t know. I know and these women know and time is on our side. We’re going to prepare the case and we’re going to try the case.”