Johnny Depp’s $50 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against Amber Heard
Award-winning actor Johnny Depp was married to fellow actress Amber Heard for 15 months. In 2016, Heard filed for divorce from Depp, citing irreconcilable differences, according to The Washington Post. The messy divorce battle played out in the press over the next few months, publicizing Heard’s claims of domestic abuse and circulating a photo of Heard with bruises on her eye and lip. Soon, Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard would be the next headline in the press.
Four days after divorce papers were filed, a temporary restraining order was issued against Depp. Then, a day after the restraining order hearing, the actors released a joint statement addressing the alleged abuse.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm,” said Depp and Heard in a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter.
Finally, the two reached a settlement that included a non-disparagement agreement and awarded Heard with $7 million dollars, according to The Washington Post. But the legal battle is far from over.
The saga continues in 2018 when Heard spoke about domestic abuse in an op-ed piece published by The Washington Post.
“Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” Heard wrote in The Washington Post, “Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted. A movie I was attached to recast my role. I had just shot a two-year campaign as the face of a global fashion brand, and the company dropped me. . . . I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
Even though Heard never mentioned Depp by name, most people connected the dots. In fact, four days after the piece was published, Disney announced that Depp would no longer be a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, according to The Washington Post.
In response to the op-ed piece, Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against Heard in Virginia, where the piece was printed, instead of in California where the two both reside. This may be because Depp’s legal team believes they have a better chance litigating in Virginia instead of in California, where the alleged abuse took place.
Of course, Heard then filed a motion to dismiss her ex-husband’s complaint, going into detail describing the alleged abuse and how she was in fear for her life.
Depp fired back by accusing Heard of fabricating the abuse with “painted-on bruises”, according to The Washington Post.
Currently, the case is still ongoing but both sides still deny any wrongdoing. Depp denies abusing Heard or any other woman for that matter, while Heard’s attorneys deny Depp’s defamation allegations. In a statement published in The Washington Post, Heard’s attorney, George says, “The evidence in this case is clear: Johnny Depp repeatedly beat Amber Heard. The increasingly desperate attempts by Mr. Depp and his enablers to revive his career by initiating baseless litigation against so many people once close to him — his former lawyers, former managers, and his former spouse — are not fooling anyone.”
Depp’s Defamation Lawsuit Will Remain In Virginia
A Virginia judge ruled on Thursday August 29th, 2019 that Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit will remain in Virginia, according to court documents obtained by The Blast. This is bad news for Heard as she had previously requested the case to be transferred to California where both actors reside.
Elon Musk Enters The Chat…
UPDATE 2: On Wednesday June 17th, 2020, legal depositions in a separate lawsuit Depp filed against the British Sun Newspaper, claimed that Heard had a secret three-way relationship with Space X Entrepreneur Elon Musk and model Cara Delevingne, according to Page Six. It was also claimed that Heard had an affair with Musk during her marriage to Depp.
Musk denied the claims to Page Six and stated, “Cara and I are friends, but we’ve never been intimate. She would confirm this…. Also, I wish to confirm again that Amber and I only started going out about a month after her divorce filing. I don’t think I was ever even in the vicinity of Amber during their marriage!”
Depp Loses Libel Lawsuit In The UK
UPDATE 3: On Monday, November 2nd, 2020, it was announced that Depp lost his libel lawsuit against Britain’s Sun Newspaper. Depp sued News Group Newspapers and Dan Wootton, The Sun’s executive editor, over an article that claimed Depp was abusive to Heard.
UK’s High Court ruled in the publisher’s favor, citing evidence that included audio recording and text messages that Depp was violent towards Heard.
“The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over 20 years. Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court,” said The Sun in a statement following the verdict, according to CNN Business.
Depp’s $50 Millions Defamation Case Against Heard in Virginia is still set to happen in May 2021, according to Courthouse News. The trial has been delayed so long due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
It will be interesting to see if the ruling for The Sun libel case will have any affect on Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard herself.
Depp Will Now Face Heard’s Defamation Lawsuit After “Hoax” Comment
On Monday January 4th, 2020, a Virginia Judge rejected Depp’s bid for immunity over statements made by his Lawyer that declared Heard’s abuse claim as a “hoax”. Now Depp will face a defamation counterclaims from Heard.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the Anti-SLAPP strategy. To this, the Judge says Depp’s anti-SLAPP defense is no good — because there’s enough evidence for Heard to show Depp was being malicious, his statements were not opinion, and no “public concern” defense. But, in favor of Depp, judge said Heard doesn’t have a Computer Fraud and Abuse claim and is not immune either for her statements made in the Washington Post article.
Depp Denied Appeal In U.K. Libel Lawsuit
In March 2021, Depp’s legal team attempted to appeal the libel lawsuit he lost against The Sun Newspaper, on the basis that the court sided with Heard because of her pledge to donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity, which she allegedly has not done.
However, Depp was denied an appeal and the Judge upheld the November 2020 ruling, stating, “the appeal has no real prospect of success and there is no other compelling reason for it to be heard.”
More updates to come as this case continues to unfold.
Do you think Depp will win this defamation lawsuit? I can tell you that it definitely won’t be a slam dunk. This is because it is harder for an actor or public figure to come out on top in these situations unless they are able to prove actual malice. This means Depp would not only need to prove that Heard lied about the abuse, but also that she had the requisite mental state and motivation or reckless disregard for the truth when she publicly declared herself a victim of Depp’s domestic abuse. In other words, Depp would need to prove that Heard’s accusations were false and that she made them in efforts to damage Depp’s career.
Only time will tell what the outcome of this case will be, but we’ll keep you updated.
If you have been a victim of defamation and seek legal assistance, Contact the Internet defamation attorneys at RM Warner Law today. We know how to help.
To learn more about the steps to take when defamation strikes, watch the video below.