It has been almost two months since the defamation lawsuit between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard began. Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in defamation based on a 2018 OpEd written by Heard in which she refers to herself as a survivor of domestic abuse. While she never named Depp in the OpEd, the years in which she says she suffered from the domestic violence were years when she was married to Depp. In response to Depp’s $50 million lawsuit, Heard filed a countersuit for $100 million, also for defamation.
Over the weeks, a number of people have testified for both sides, including Depp and Heard. Depp was supposed to be called to testify once again this week — this time by Amber Heard’s attorney — however, that later changed and Depp did not testify again. Heard’s defense rested on Tuesday, and Depp’s attorney filed a motion with the judge to dismiss Heard’s $100 million countersuit.
Depp’s attorney — Ben Chew — claimed that Heard’s countersuit should be thrown out because the basis of her claim was statements made by another one of Depp’s attorneys, Alan Waldman. Chew claimed that Heard’s attorneys had not proven that Depp had anything to do with the statements made by Mr. Waldman back in 2020. He also claimed that Mr. Waldman had believed that the comments he made were true, which means that there was no actual malice behind his statements.
In turn, Heard’s attorney — Ben Rottenborn — argued that her $100 million lawsuit should not be thrown out because there was actual malice. Rottenborn claimed that Depp and his attorney knew that the statements were false and had worked together to create a story to make Heard look bad. Rottenborn further claimed that, when Waldman made the statements, he was acting as an agent of Depp.
After hearing arguments from both sides — without the jury present — the judge presiding over the trial determined that Heard’s countersuit would not be thrown out. In her ruling, Judge Penney Azcarate made the following statement:
“The jury may infer Mr. Waldman made these specific statements to a third party to service plaintiff [Depp] by portraying defendant [Heard] as an opposing litigant in a negative light…Consequently, there is more than a scintilla of evidence that a reasonable juror may infer Mr. Waldman made the counterclaim statements while realizing they were false or with a reckless disregard for their truth. It is not my role to measure the veracity or weight of the evidence,” said Azcarate, adding, “Actual malice is a question for the fact-finder.”
This is not the first time that Judge Azcarate has denied a motion to dismiss one of the lawsuits. Earlier on in the trial, Heard’s lawyer asked the judge to dismiss Depp’s $50 million lawsuit, which the judge summarily denied. The trial is expected to continue for a few more days, with the jury going to deliberations on May 27.