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.
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.”
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 basically wanted Depp’s career to go under because of her allegations.
Only time will tell what the outcome of this case will be, but like most high-profile celebrity lawsuits, they probably will try to settle out of court to avoid more media frenzy.
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.