Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans

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On the surface, the Houston Texans’ decision to settle with a woman who sued the team against their former quarterback Deshaun WatsonThe alleged misconduct, along with 29 others who have not yet been charged, has no bearing on Watson. The claims against him — four are still pending and, depending on Houston’s settlement, up to six that could still be filed against him — have not been touched. On a deeper level, there are pros and cons to living in Houston.

The good news is, if the cases against Tex go to trial, Watson won’t be dragged into that litigation as a witness. He could be subpoenaed (in the form of a deposition) in advance of each trial and called to testify at each and every trial. Even if he were to settle all counts against him, he would face tough questions from attorney Tony Boothby and possibly the team’s attorney, depending on the specific defense(s) that were prepared and proven before the jury. The team could have tried to show that Watson had done nothing wrong and in return the team had done nothing wrong. Alternatively, the team could have tried to blame it all on Watson, who should have sought compensation for his wrongdoing.

Along the same lines, the settlement eliminates the most difficult variable. If the charges against Texans had been filed directly against the team and not added to the existing cases (which is how it was originally filed), the Texans could have formally responded and added Watson as a third-party defendant to the cases. For each case, they argue that Watson is responsible for his injuries, not the team. The headline could simply be “Texas Sues Deshaun Watson.” Tax settlements avoid this procedural complexity.

The bad news is that, for the four pending cases and a possible six more, the settlements fund ongoing litigation. Although the amount is unknown and likely never will be, any amount paid to the women still suing, or to those suing Watson, could be used to pay costs in the four cases pending against him. It may encourage those who reject consent to stand firm and insist on a public hearing.

At that point, Watson and his attorneys may be entitled to learn the amount owed in Texas within the scope of the pending cases. Texans and Buzbee will certainly fight such an effort. Watson, through his attorneys, can argue that the information may be relevant to the rest of the litigation, and is fair game for the discovery process. If the settlements are low, the potential argument shows that the cases are weak. If the settlements are higher, Watson could try to get a dollar-for-dollar credit against any judgment against him. Again, the team and Boothby will certainly fight any attempt to introduce settlement amounts in open court.

It’s still a double-edged sword for Watson. The higher the Texas fee, the more reason there is to pay. The Texans knew about Watson’s offense and couldn’t stop him. That Watson really made a mistake.

Regardless, the bottom line is that a nearly hopelessly complicated situation has been fixed, with as many as 30 new charges against Texx. From the NFL’s perspective, this is good news. Once the remaining charges against Watson are settled, this extended distraction is guaranteed to finally end.

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