Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard: How Much Do They Owe Each Other?

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Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard: How Much Do They Owe Each Other?

Johnny Depp has won his $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard over domestic violence allegations.

A seven-person civil jury in Virginia found that Ms. Heard defamed the case Pirates of the Caribbean and Fantastic Beasts Star when she implied he had abused her in a comment in 2018 The Washington Post.

The jury also upheld one of Ms Heard’s three allegations in a $100million counterclaim against Mr Depp and his lawyer, who in 2016 called their original allegations “ambush” and “fraud”.

However, neither side received the full damages they were demanding.

How much money were Depp and Heard awarded?

Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, compared to the $50 million sought by his attorneys.

Ms. Heard was awarded US$2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages, compared to the US$100 million sought in her counterclaim.

Because Virginia law caps punitive damages at $350,000, the actress must pay Mr. Depp a total of $10.35 million.

In total, that leaves Mr Depp $8.35 million out of the trial, although it’s unclear who will pay whose legal costs.

The damages to both parties are avoided due to a bankruptcy that Mr Depp reportedly came close to in 2009.

(AP)

Where does this result lead for both parties?

Dan Abrams, Founder of the Trial News Network law and crime, described the result as “a real surprise” and “a total loss for Amber Heard,” arguing that the $2 million she was awarded was “really a symbolic win.”

He said: “It seems to me that the takeaway from this case is that these juries believed Johnny Depp and they didn’t believe Amber Heard. I don’t think there is any other way to interpret all of these judgments together.”

The ruling contrasted with another, similar case in the UK in which Mr Depp sued unsuccessfully The sun for calling him a “wife beater”. His appeal was denied in March 2021.

Although UK defamation law has traditionally been kinder to the aggrieved party than in the US, a judge found the newspaper had proved its article was “substantially true” and that 12 of the 14 alleged domestic violence incidents had actually taken place.

To complicate matters further, Depp previously paid Heard $7 million as part of the divorce settlement they finalized in 2017. Although Heard publicly pledged to donate this to charity, she testified at trial that she was unable to finish this because of the trial. which she said cost her “over $6 million” in legal fees.

A spokesman for Ms Heard said The New York Times that she plans to contest the outcome.

Why was the damage so great?

The amount awarded to Mr Depp reflects the jury’s belief that Ms Heard acted with “actual malice”, meaning she either knew her claims were false, or acted with “reckless disregard for the truth.” ‘ acted when she wrote her comment and ‘reposted’ by retweeting it on Twitter.

The op-ed didn’t name Mr Depp, but Ms Heard had publicly accused him of domestic violence two years earlier. Therefore, Mr Depp’s lawyers argued that it was clearly referring to him.

Before sentencing, the judge instructed the jury to select an amount of damages to compensate the plaintiffs for financial loss from defamatory statements, damage to their business, damage to their reputation, and “any pain, embarrassment, humiliation, or mental suffering.”

They were told to only award punitive damages if they believe that Heard’s statements, or those of Depp’s attorney, were knowingly false or “made so recklessly as to amount to a willful disregard for the truth” – meaning the spokespersons “a high level of awareness that the statements were likely false”.

Apparently, the jury believed that at least one of Heard’s testimonies warranted those punitive damages, while only one of Depp’s attorney’s testimonies lowered the punitive damages bar.

What were the statements?

Heard first accused Depp of molesting her in 2016 when she filed for divorce and obtained a restraining order against him.

“Throughout our relationship, Johnny verbally and physically abused me. I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny that included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening attacks on me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him,” she said at the time.

Following their divorce settlement, they released a joint statement, saying: “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains. There was never any intent to cause physical or emotional harm.”

However, in 2018, Heard wrote a sexual violence op-ed in which she identified herself as a survivor. Depp’s lawsuit targeted three sections of this comment that he believed to be false and defamatory.

The first was the caption, which Heard didn’t write, which read, “I spoke out about sexual violence — and faced the wrath of our culture.” The second was her claim that “I became a public figure representing domestic violence two years ago and I have felt the full brunt of our culture’s anger at women speaking out.”

The third part read: “I’ve had the rare opportunity to see in real time how institutions are protecting men accused of abuse.”

Under the judge’s instructions, the jury had to believe not only that all three of those claims were false, but that they would be read by others as referring to Depp, that they were “designed and intended” by Heard to make him feel defame, and that she did them with real malice.

Heard’s counterclaim, meanwhile, concerned three statements made by Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman. In the first, he accused “Heard and her friends in the media” of “us[ing] feigned sexual violence allegations as sword and shield”.

In the second, he claimed that Heard and her friends deliberately “framed” Mr. Depp by fabricating damage to their home, coordinating their stories, and then making a fake 911 call. In the third, he called Heard’s claims “an abuse hoax.”

The jury found that only the second allegation met all of the criteria for libel, meaning it was both false and made with actual malice.

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