HOUSTON (AP) - Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been sued by four more women who accuse him of sexual assault and harassment.
The lawsuits were filed Thursday night, hours after the NFL said it was investigating earlier allegations by three massage therapists who said the quarterback sexually assaulted them during massages.
The claims in the four new suits, which were filed in a Harris County state district court, mirror those in the three earlier cases. Each woman who sued Thursday worked in a spa or giving massages and claims that Watson exposed himself, touched them with his penis or kissed them against their will.
None of the seven women, who have sued separately but are all represented by Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee, are identified by name in the lawsuits. They are each seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs.
Watson, 25, has broadly denied that he acted inappropriately and said in a Tuesday statement that he looks forward to clearing his name. In a statement Friday, an attorney for Watson, Rusty Hardin, called the allegations “meritless.”
At a Friday news conference, Buzbee said he expects to file more lawsuits and his firm is vetting additional claims from women, including one involving an incident this month. None of his clients had filed police reports, he said, “but that is our next step.”
Buzbee said some of the massage therapists who came forward work at spas, some work from their homes, some work at deluxe hotels. All but one, who was flown in from Atlanta, were from the Houston area.
“These are, for the most part, licensed professionals. These are people that, many of them, are single mothers, either own their own shop or work in a spa,” while three clients are married and one is engaged to be married, he said.
The women are suing for $500 in damages, the least that can be sought in a Texas civil district court, “and they bring these cases for one reason only - stopping further misconduct from this defendant or any others like him,” he said.
Hardin's statement said he is “extremely proud to represent Deshaun Watson and wholly stand behind him."
“However, we will wait to comment in detail until we’ve completed our review of the numerous, evolving allegations from Mr. Buzbee,” the statement said. “We will respond next week and ask you to keep an open mind until we do so.”
Watson is one of the league’s top quarterbacks and led the NFL in yards passing last season. He signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension with the Texans last offseason, but he became unhappy with the direction of the team as Houston sunk to 4-12 and he requested a trade in January.