Johnny Depp Suffers Big Loss In $50M Defamation Battle With Amber Heard
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Johnny Depp took a hit in his upcoming multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit this week as a judge paved way for a potential defense for Amber Heard.
Next month's trial comes after Depp sued his ex-wife for a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece in which he claims she falsely implies she was physically and sexually abused by the Pirates of the Caribbean star when they were married.
At a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, 24 March, Depp's lawyers sought a ruling which would prevent Heard from invoking an anti-SLAPP provision (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation); a Virginia law designed to protect people from lawsuits when they speak about matters concerning the public.
Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew, argued the law is not designed to relate to private disputes like Depp’s accusal of Heard for defamation, while Heard's lawyer Elaine Bredehoft claimed her client's article does not mention Depp by name and that it does address an issue of public concern in the form of preventing domestic violence.
Heard has also filed a counterclaim for defamation against her ex-husband because of statements his lawyer made about her.
Judge Penney Azcarate ruled against the summary judgement motion at the hearing at a Fairfax Country courthouse, meaning Heard will be able to use the law as part of her defense.
The decision will allow her lawyers to argue in front of the jury that she is deserving of immunity for what she wrote in the article.
Depp is seeking $50 million in damages in the defamation lawsuit which is scheduled to start on 11 April, with the actor claiming: "Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse, she is a perpetrator,” Deadline reports.
Both Heard and Depp are scheduled to testify at the upcoming trial, while a number of other Hollywood figures are listed as potential witnesses who may appear either in person or via video link.
Depp was able to file the lawsuit in Virginia because online editions of The Washington Post are published through servers in Fairfax County. Heard’s lawyers sought to move the case to California, where the actors live, but Depp's team explained on Thursday that one of the reasons they launched the case in Virginia is because the anti-SLAPP law in the state is not as broad as it is in California.
Depp previously lost a similar lawsuit against The Sun newspaper in the UK. The actor had sued the paper after it claimed he had assaulted Heard.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know that you are not alone. You can talk in confidence 24 hours a day to the national domestic violence helpline Refuge on 0808 2000 247