Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been sued again for alleged sexual misconduct during a massage session, this time by a licensed massage therapist who said he pressured her into oral sex at The Houstonian hotel in Houston in December 2020.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Harris County, Texas, by a woman under the pseudonym Jane Doe. She is the 25th woman to file suit and press similar misconduct claims against Watson in civil court, not including another woman who filed suit in March 2021 but decided not to pursue it about three weeks later.
It is the first lawsuit since the NFL suspended Watson for 11 games after investigating the allegations.
It also is the first lawsuit filed by a different plaintiffs’ attorney other than Tony Buzbee. Of the previous 24 lawsuits that were active until earlier this year, 23 have reached undisclosed settlement agreements, according to Buzbee, with only one remaining active before the new one was filed Thursday.
The new lawsuit outlines a similar narrative as the others, but it’s unclear if it will have any bearing on his suspension since it happened during the same time frame as the other encounters from 2020 to early 2021, when Watson played for the Houston Texans.
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“Watson’s status remains unchanged,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Friday. “We will monitor developments in the newly filed litigation, and any conduct that warrants further investigation or possible additional sanctions would be addressed within the Personal Conduct Policy.”
Like many of the other lawsuits, the new one says Watson contacted the woman on Instagram. She met him at the hotel, where he also met plaintiffs in some other cases. After removing his clothes in the bathroom, the suit said he came out wearing only a towel and later pressured the woman into massaging his private area.
“At some point during the massage, Watson removed his towel and offered to let her `get on top,’” the new lawsuit states. “Plaintiff refused to have sex with Watson, however, he was able to pressure her into oral sex.”
It says Watson paid her $300 for her services, although her normal charge is $115 for an hour massage. She is seeking damages for her claims of civil assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit states Watson caused her to “experience mental suffering by forcing her to engage in sexual acts against her will.”
Watson has denied such allegations since the first lawsuit was filed in March 2021.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, declined comment. Shortly after the first cases were filed last year, he said his client couldn’t adequately defend himself if they didn’t know the women’s names. Like the woman in this new case, those women initially used pseudonyms instead. But Hardin won that argument last year, and those women then added their names to their claims.
The woman’s attorney, Anissah Nguyen, issued a statement Thursday night to USA TODAY Sports.
“Like so many others, my client spent nearly two years struggling to cope with trauma from all that he stole from her, and the daily pain that has become her reality,” said Nguyen of Universal Law Group in Houston.
“Knowing her story will bring on the hard conversations, criticism and even victim-blaming, the strength and bravery of these other women gave my client the courage to stand up and speak out. She seeks justice not only for herself and her own healing, but for the more than 20 women who refused to be shamed into silence, and the victims who have yet to come forward.”
Nguyen also said they will seek to take Watson’s deposition before the end of the year.
Watson is eligible for reinstatement in the NFL Nov. 28. The league didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment about the new lawsuit. It had sought to suspend him at least a year but ultimately reached a settlement to suspend him 11 games and fine him $5 million.
The Texans, Watson’s former team, also reached confidential settlements with 30 women with claims related to Watson after being accused of enabling his behavior and failing to prevent it.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: [email protected]
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