Attorney David Gelman Discusses Fallout from the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Defamation Trial
What Was the Trial About?
Actor Johnny Depp filed a civil defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard, his ex-wife, in Fairfax County, Virginia. Depp alleged three counts of defamation against Heard, seeking $50 million in damages. Heard filed a counterclaim against Depp seeking $100 million in damages. Depp and Heard were married in February 2015, but by May 2016 Heard had filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order against Depp, alleging that he had been physically abusive during their relationship.
In December 2018, Heard published an op-ed in The Washington Post. Although Heard did not directly reference Depp in the article, she wrote “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…I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” In response to Heard’s op-ed, Depp filed a defamation suit alleging that Heard had damaged his professional reputation and career and caused him to suffer extensive financial losses due to lost acting opportunities. Heard countersued Depp for defamation, based on three statements Depp’s lawyer had provided to UK newspaper The Daily Mail.
During the trial, Depp’s legal team attempted to disprove Heard’s abuse allegations and instead demonstrate that she had instigated physical and emotional abuse in the parties’ relationship. Heard’s attorneys argued that her op-ed was based in fact and was First Amendment free speech. The jury ultimately returned a verdict largely in favor of Depp, finding that Heard’s op-ed had defamed Depp with actual malice. Depp was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 of punitive damages under Virginia’s statutory cap. The jury also found that one of the three statements cited by Heard had defamed her and awarded her $2 million in compensatory damages.
David Gelman Evaluates What Led to the Verdict
In speaking with Action News 5, Attorney Gelman states that the result of the trial can largely be attributed to the respective performances of Depp’s and Heard’s legal teams. Attorney Gelman found that Depp’s legal team offered the better performance, noting that Heard’s attorneys appeared to focus on responding to Depp’s lawyers’ arguments rather than by trying to show that Heard had been physically, emotionally, or financially harmed by Depp. Attorney Gelman further noted that Depp appeared to be more credible on the stand than Heard.
Why Are Defamation Cases So Difficult to Prove?
Attorney Gelman notes that defamation cases, particularly those brought by public figures, are notoriously tricky to prove. Both Depp and Heard had to prove to the jury that the other’s statements were false and that the other made the statements with actual malice, or intent to cause reputational or financial harm. Attorney Gelman states that proving malice is incredibly difficult and costly. He notes that Depp and Heard are famous Hollywood actors who have substantial financial resources compared to the average person, who likely would be unable to afford to pursue a defamation case except without the strongest of evidence.
What Happens Next?
Attorney Gelman notes that Heard is likely to appeal the jury’s verdict. Assuming the verdict stands, Attorney Gelman states that because rehabilitating his public reputation was likely the primary goal of the case for Depp, he would probably agree to negotiate a settlement with Heard for a much smaller sum of money. Alternatively, Depp could obtain a court judgment that he could use to collect the jury’s award from Heard’s property and other assets.
Contact a Cherry Hill Tort Lawyer to Discuss Your Defamation Case in New Jersey
Did you or a loved one sustain losses due to defamation in New Jersey? Right now, you need an aggressive attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Gelman Law represent clients harmed because of defamation in Cherry Hill, Camden County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, and throughout New Jersey. Call 856-861-4236 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 850 Rt 70 West Cherry Hill, NJ 08002.
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