Two judges ruled Friday that the majority of the women with lawsuits against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson must replead and identify themselves by name.
In separate hearings in the 113th and 270th districts of Harris County (Texas), it was ruled that 13 of the plaintiffs in the 22 lawsuits filed versus Watson must refile within two business days or said cases will be dismissed.
All 22 plaintiffs' lawsuits, which were each filed by attorney Tony Buzbee, were previously identified as "Jane Doe." Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin, who held a news conference after Friday's rulings, said he and Buzbee agreed that 14 women would move forward with the lawsuits naming themselves.
In the day's initial hearing, Judge Dedra Davis of the 270th District Court ruled one of the plaintiffs must identify herself by name. That was followed later Friday morning by Judge Rabee Collier in the 113th District Court ruling 12 plaintiffs must refile using their names.
"Today during court proceedings, the Watson team spent most of their time attacking me because they claimed that, without the identities of the women suing Watson, they could not properly investigate the case and defend Mr. Watson," Buzbee said in a statement released following Friday's rulings. "I had previously explained to Watson's team that most of the women in this case had already given me permission to release their names to Mr. Hardin, and that I had intended to do so in due course. Indeed, after they watched Ashley Solis provide her compelling and truthful statement, these brave women felt emboldened and strong enough to take this important step. They are ready to be identified. In lawsuits sometimes we push hard for something that may turn out to not be helpful. As I said in court, 'be careful what you ask for.' Identifying these women at this point adds even more credibility to the allegations being made, and I am proud to stand with these brave and courageous women."
Hardin and Buzbee also came to an agreement that all pre-trial proceedings would be held in front of the 113th district's Collier going forward, while specific cases will be heard in the courts they were filed in.
Hardin filed a motion for a special exemption on Thursday. Hardin argued in the filing that for his defendant to "properly defend himself" the court must "mandate that the plaintiff identify herself as required by the law." Hardin stated "Texas law does not permit Ms. Doe to file her civil claims using a pseudonym."
Watson has been accused by 22 women in civil lawsuits of sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions. All 22 lawsuits list the plaintiffs as a "Jane Doe." On Tuesday, two of the women were identified in a news conference for the initial time, as Ashley Solis spoke out and Lauren Baxley had a letter she had written read aloud by a lawyer from Buzbee's firm.
Hardin addressed the lawsuits' allegations Friday.
"Our first announcement has always been about consent, that on some occasions, some sexual activity would have taken place," Hardin said. "I'm not going into what it is or the nature or the numbers or with whom, but I think you can rightfully assume that. The question that we've always been emphasizing, never at any time, in any circumstances, did this young man ever engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party."
Hardin also said Friday that he considered having Watson at the news conference before electing not to.
"Ultimately, it didn't make sense, but what he wants more than anything is to get back his reputation," Hardin said.
On Wednesday, Nike announced it had suspended its endorsement of Watson.
The Houston Police Department announced in a statement April 2 that it had opened an investigation involving a complaint against Watson following a report being filed.
The NFL currently is investigating the allegations against Watson.
Hardin stated Friday he had yet to be contacted by the police or the NFL.
"We have not been in touch with any representatives with the NFL nor the police," Hardin said. "But we do understand both are looking at it."