HOUSTON (CN) — A woman who claims former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson sexually assaulted her during a massage session sued the team Monday, claiming it enabled his habit of seeking out random therapists on social media.
Toi Garner, a flight attendant and small business owner, says she had started taking classes with the goal of obtaining a massage therapy license when Watson, whom she had met through mutual friends, sent her a direct message on Instagram in November 2020 asking for a massage.
“Plaintiff found it somewhat peculiar that Watson would seek such services from her, because she was only a student at the time and did not have her license,” according to the lawsuit she filed against Houston NFL Holdings LP dba Houston Texans in Harris County District Court.
“Plaintiff was under the impression that a player like Watson had access to an entire team of professional trainers and massage therapists,” the complaint continues.
Garner says she declined Watson’s invitation to massage him at the Houstonian, an upscale Houston hotel, where Watson had a private suite that a Texans staffer had put in his name because Watson, now 26, did not meet the hotel’s age requirements.
She agreed to see Watson at her mother’s home in Manvel, a Houston suburb on Nov. 6, 2020.
Garner says Watson showed up with a non-disclosure agreement and she left the room so he could get undressed.
When she entered the room, she says, Watson was lying face-down on the massage table with only a small towel covering his butt.
Feeling nervous and unsure of herself, she recounts, she started sweating as Watson told her to “get up in there,” “don’t be scared,” and to “use your fingers.”
He flipped over and Garner says he directed her to massage his groin. She refused.
The session ended with Garner flustered and thinking she had not done a good job, according to the lawsuit, so she agreed to another appointment with Watson four days later, again at her mother’s house.
She claims Watson exposed himself and kept moving his penis towards her hands before ejaculating onto her arm.
“Watson got dressed and was grabbing his belongings when he asked about getting another massage that same day. Plaintiff told him she would let him know just to get him out of the house,” the complaint states. “After Watson left the house, he sent her a text saying ‘Maybe 4:30 pm? At Houstonian. I see you’re getting comfortable with certain techniques and areas.’”
Garner says Watson repeatedly called her over the following days, but she did not answer because she “felt violated, disgusted, used and betrayed,” and wanted nothing to do with him.
She sued the Texans for civil assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence and gross negligence “as principal of agent Deshaun Watson,” and negligence, gross negligence and conspiracy via vicarious liability, by which employers can be held responsible for damages caused by their employees.
Garner is represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee. He also represents her and 23 other women in lawsuits filed against Watson, alleging sexual misconduct and abuse during massage sessions.
Last week, Watson settled 20 of those lawsuits.
Garner’s complaint against the Texans cites the deposition testimony—obtained by Buzbee for the civil cases against the quarterback—of Watson, Houston police who investigated allegations against him and Roland Ramirez, the Texans’ director of player care and sports medicine.
Ramirez testified he found it strange when Watson asked him in August 2020 for a massage table, and told the quarterback, “We’re here for you, you know, if there’s any work or whatever.”
According to the lawsuit, Jodi Honn, owner of Genuine Touch—a massage therapy firm under contract with the Texans—had complained to team officials as early as June 2020 that Watson was seeking out massage services from unqualified strangers on Instagram.
“It was her belief that Watson was potentially exposing himself to the Covid virus, or that he would eventually be sued if he continued to reach out to random strangers for private massages,” the filing states.
At least two Genuine Touch therapists also told Honn about Watson’s “towel trick” and “were well aware of his ‘sketchiness’ and attempts to push boundaries,” the suit states.
Though two Texas grand juries declined this year to criminally charge Watson, a Houston police sex crimes detective testified in a deposition cited in Garner’s lawsuit she believed Watson had committed crimes in sessions with some of his accusers.
She said her investigation revealed Watson had worked with 50 therapists from about September 2019 through January 2021.
Watson acknowledged in a deposition the Texans head of security, a former Secret Service agent, had given him a non-disclosure agreement after another therapist posted his phone number on Instagram and threatened to out him for alleged sexual abuse.
As further evidence of the Texans complicity, Garner says, the team security chief contacted Instagram and got it to take down the post because it contained Watson’s personal information.
As this drama played out behind the scenes, acrimony was also unfolding in the public eye.
Watson fell out with the Texans front office and demanded a trade in January 2021 after the team finished the 2020 season with a 4-12 record.
Still collecting his paychecks, he sat out the entire 2021 season.
The Texans traded him in March to the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract, the largest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history.
The NFL is investigating Watson for possible personal conduct violations and considering suspending him for one season.
In a statement responding to Garner’s lawsuit, the Texans said they have fully complied with law enforcement and various investigations of Watson since March 2021, when the first of his accusers, Ashley Solis, sued him.
“We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization,” the team said.
Buzbee indicated Monday this is probably not a one-and-done lawsuit against the Texans.
“Today we filed the first case of what will likely be many against the Houston Texans related to Deshaun Watson’s behavior,” he said in a statement. “Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct.”