Not all developments in an inherently public controversy require a response. Sometimes the best response is to not respond at all.
On Tuesday, attorney Rusty Hardin would have arguably served his client better by failing to respond to the compelling presentation made by Ashley Solis, the first of 22 people to sue Deshaun Watson for battery and harassment in attaching her name to litigation and speaking publicly. about the situation. Hardin’s lengthy statement seeks a “got you” moment by attacking this specific claim made by Ashley Solis during her presentation to reporters: “People say I’m doing this just for the money. That is false.”
Hardin’s statement attempts to characterize that as a lie, and in turn, Ashley Solis as a liar, by sharing chapter and verse details about the settlement discussions that occurred before her lawsuit was filed three weeks ago. Although Hardin uses the term “secret money” to describe the initial settlement lawsuit, the emails revealed by Hardin reveal the standard type of pre-litigation communications in which attorneys attempt to resolve potential claims without litigation by going back and forth in the courts. hopes of reaching consensus.
The emails confirm that the initial $ 100,000 lawsuit was not made in an unethical or inappropriate manner, but rather in the normal way such matters develop, with one attorney alerting another attorney to the existence of a dispute and with both attorneys exchanging messages until the dispute. is or is not resolved. The initial lawsuit was not flashy, given the usual value of civil litigation involving claims like the ones under discussion here. Solís, through attorney Tony Buzbee, requested $ 100,000. This means that, through the negotiation process, Solís and Buzbee would eventually have accepted less. Most likely, the case would have settled between $ 50,000 and $ 75,000.
The emails produced by Hardin show that the lawsuit was not viewed as extortion or blackmail, but as a legitimate effort to solve the case.
“[I] I wanted to check this to see if Ms. Solis wanted to help us understand the reason behind the $ 100,000 lawsuit or come back with a different figure, ”wrote Scott Gaffield on behalf of Watson. “As I said to [attorney] Cornelia [Brandfield-Harvey] last week, we don’t think the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong regarding Ms Solís, but we’re happy to continue the conversation around a reasonable settlement figure because we think she can learn a lesson from having put himself in this situation. “
In other words, Watson’s camp was willing to consider paying something to solve the case because, as Gaffield put it, “we think you can learn a lesson from putting yourself in this situation.”
Surprisingly, Hardin’s team voluntarily disclosed this communication, which was otherwise confidential and was never intended for public consumption. It shows that Watson’s representatives saw the claims made by Ashley Solis as something that was not frivolous, but instead provided a useful opportunity to teach Watson a “lesson in putting himself in this situation.”
More importantly, this effort by Hardin and his team ultimately stems from the desire to paint Ashley Solis as a liar because her attorneys made an initial $ 100,000 settlement lawsuit and now say that it is false to say that she is doing this “just for money . “
While it is common for lawyers to attack an adversary by painting the adversary as a liar, there is something important to remember when doing so. The statement attacked must be clearly and indisputably a lie.
Showing that, in February, Solís would have resolved the matter silently and without the expense, delay, uncertainty and discomfort of litigation does not show that he is lying now, when he says that he is not doing it “just for the money.” Although some of Buzbee’s comments that the cases are not about money have been false, in part because the civil justice system is based on the idea that justice is administered by paying money and not eye per eye (hence the presence of the term “civil”), the fact that Ashley Solís was willing to accept a balloon payment as justice for the indignity she allegedly suffered without having to bother to file a lawsuit does not mean that she has any improper motive or that this is some kind of cash grab.
Hardin wants people to believe it is a cash draw. Now that we’ve seen and heard from Ashley Solis, and recognizing the extent to which her decision to go public will affect her life, who would reasonably say this is trying to get $ 100,000 out of Watson?
Hardin, in many respects, was caught off guard by Buzbee’s assault on Watson in the court of public opinion. Although Buzbee hasn’t performed perfectly, Hardin’s attempt to characterize Ashley Solis as someone who views her lawsuit against Watson as a ticket to a potential six-figure lottery prize misses the point and, in turn, fails. in the White.
Ultimately, what good is Hardin’s answer for Watson? That’s the question someone on Hardin’s team should have asked. And that’s the hardest thing to do when the echo chamber starts to reverberate. Often there is no one within the bubble of fervent advocates of the position on one side who can or will step back and say, “Should we really be doing this?”
If there were someone like that on Watson’s legal team, today’s statement would certainly not have been issued.