Judge denies Amber Heard’s request to throw out Johnny Depp defamation suit
Posted on May 9, 2022
A judge on Tuesday denied actress Amber Heard’s request to throw out the $50 million defamation lawsuit filed against her by her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp.
Judge Penny Azcarate said Depp’s legal team had provided enough evidence to allow the case, stemming from a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described being a victim of sexual violence and domestic abuse, to continue.
Azcarate said that the case would move forward “if there is a scintilla of evidence that a reasonable juror could weigh.”
Heard did not mention Depp by name in the op-ed, but his attorneys argued there was enough of a connection to claims made in 2016 that the actor physically abused her.
The judge agreed that Depp’s legal team had presented enough evidence “that jurors could weigh that the statements were about the plaintiff, that the statements were published and that the statement was false and that the defendant made the statement knowing it to be false or that the defendant made it so recklessly as to amount to willful disregard for the truth.”
Michael Spindler, an economic damages expert, testified earlier Tuesday that Depp “suffered lost earnings of approximately $40 million” over a nearly two-year period after the op-ed, including $20.3 million after agency commissions from losing the role of Jack Sparrow in the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film and $20.1 million from booking non-franchise films.
Spindler, however, said that he was not offering testimony on whether the earnings were lost as a result of Heard’s op-ed.
Heard’s defense also called its first witness to the stand Tuesday.
Dawn Hughes, a clinical and forensic psychologist who specializes in interpersonal violence, testified that the actress was a victim of intimate partner violence “characterized by physical violence, psychological aggression, sexual violence, coercive control and surveillance behaviors.”
Hughes said she came to the conclusion after conducting a psychological evaluation of Heard that included reviewing medical records, psychological records, texts, emails, audio and video recordings from the case.
She said she also met with Heard for 29 hours in four visits in September 2019 and January 2021, in addition to meeting with her mother.
During the evaluation, Heard reported a series of alleged physically and sexually violent behaviors by Depp, usually fueled by drug and alcohol abuse, including an incident in which Depp performed a “cavity search” on Heard.
That came, according to the testimony, after he accused another woman of hitting on her and another incident in Australia during which Depp choked Heard while telling her he hated her and was going to kill her and then “grabbed a bottle that was on the bar and penetrated her with that bottle.”
Hughes also said she diagnosed Heard with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as the result of “intimate partner violence by Mr. Depp.”
Her testimony contradicted that of Shannon Curry, an expert in intimate partner violence hired by Depp’s legal team, who testified last week that her evaluation of Heard revealed diagnoses of borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder, but not PTSD.
On Tuesday, Hughes said that she disagreed with Curry’s evaluation, as “there were flaws in how she chose to administer it.”
“I did not make a personality disorder of Ms. Heard,” she added.
Before Depp’s legal team rested its case, Heard’s former nurse testified that she told her she had a history with bipolar disorder, ADHD, co-dependency and insomnia during her marriage with Depp.
“I have a generalized memory of there being ... jealous anxiety issues, including mistrust within the relationship,” private nurse Erin Falati said. “I have a vague sense of those issues popping up throughout the years, but I wouldn’t say that was a constant theme.”