Back in June, the massive defamation trial between Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard concluded. In the end, a Virginia court decided that Depp and Heard had both defamed each other, but Heard was more at fault. The jury awarded Depp a staggering $10 million and Heard was awarded just $2 million. Not long after, Heard announced that she would be appealing the jury’s decision, and now, it looks like Depp is following Heard’s lead and appealing her $2 million judgment.
On November 2, Johnny Depp’s legal team filed a 44-page brief, asking for the decision to award Heard $2 million to be reversed. Heard was awarded the money because the jury believed Depp had defamed her when one of his lawyers — Adam Waldman — called her abuse claims against Depp “a hoax”. Depp’s team is arguing that that one statement is not enough to constitute such a judgment.
The brief says that Depp cannot be held liable for Waldman’s statement. In part, the brief reads:
Ms. Heard’s claim was fatally flawed and the trial court should have granted Mr. Depp’s motion for summary judgment and his motion to strike the evidence, for three reasons:
First, Mr. Depp cannot be held liable for Mr. Waldman’s statements as a matter of law. Ms. Heard sought to hold Mr. Depp liable for the April 27 Waldman Statement on a pure theory of vicarious liability, contending that Mr. Depp was liable merely because Mr. Waldman had been retained by Mr. Depp as his attorney and was therefore his agent. But as a matter of law, Mr. Waldman is an independent contractor, whose allegedly tortious conduct is not automatically attributable to Mr. Depp. Indeed, a wealth of authorities supports limiting a client’s liability for allegedly tortious conduct by an attorney, and the Court should impose that same limit here.
Not long after the initial verdict was announced, Heard’s legal team filed a motion to appeal the decision. Heard’s team cited “court errors” and said that the decision violated her First Amendment rights to free speech. Then, less than one month later, in a huge move, Heard fired her lead attorney — Elaine Bredehoft–, who was set to lead her appeal.
No decision has been made in either Depp or Heard’s motions to appeal.