Amber Heard files appeal on Johnny Depp defamation verdict, cites ‘chilling effect’ on abused women
The camp of American actress Amber Heard has asked the Court of Appeals of Virginia to reverse a ruling awarding $10 million to her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, citing errors on the part of the trial court.
Aside from seeking the reversal of the trial court in Virginia, Heard also sought to have the case be remanded for a new trial.
“It is clear from the size of the compensatory damages award that the jury intended to award damages not just for the Op-Ed, but for all of the negative publicity that Depp had received since Heard first accused him of abuse in 2016 and continuing after the UK Judgment. That is an impermissible basis for damages in this case,” Heard’s lawyers told the court.
“At a minimum, the jury’s excessive damages verdict should be reversed and the case should be remanded for a new trial on damages,” they added.
In her pleading, the “Aquaman” actress claimed that the trial court erred by not dismissing Depp’s claims prior to trial, and should have in fact dismissed it on the ground of forum non conveniens, a legal doctrine in which the court might acknowledge that a suit should have been brought to a more appropriate venue for disposition.
The 36-year-old actress noted that Depp’s defamation case arose outside the state of Virginia, making it not a suitable if not completely inconvenient forum.
“Had the trial court correctly applied the law in this regard, it then would have been required to consider whether a ‘more convenient forum’ with jurisdiction over both parties was available. The evidence before the trial court clearly demonstrated that California was such a jurisdiction. But, because of its erroneous legal conclusion, the trial court never even considered the substantial inconvenience and prejudice that litigating in Virginia would impose on Heard.” her lawyers stated.
Heard also claimed that the trial court should have dismissed the claims of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor because the doctrine of issue preclusion prevents the re-litigation of the ruling of the court of the United Kingdom, which ruled on Heard’s abuse accusations to be “substantially true.”
“The trial court also erred in overruling Heard’s demurrer, in which she argued that the challenged statements are non-actionable expressions of opinion and are not reasonably capable of conveying the alleged defamatory implication. That holding, if allowed to stand, undoubtedly will have a chilling effect on other women who wish to speak about abuse involving powerful men,” read her appeal.
She further insisted that the trial court erred in denying her motion to set aside the jury’s verdict based on Depp’s failure to prove actual malice.
Last June, a Virginia jury on Wednesday ruled that Heard defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp following a six-week trial that drew the public’s attention to the former Hollywood couple’s soured relationship.
The jury awarded Depp $15 million in damages from Heard. The panel awarded Heard $2 million in damages.
Depp, 58, sued Heard for $50 million and argued that she defamed him when she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a newspaper opinion piece. In a countersuit, Heard sought $100 million, saying Depp smeared her when his lawyer called her accusations a “hoax.”
Depp has denied hitting Heard or any woman and said she was the one who turned violent in their relationship.
Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming “The Rum Diary” and wed in February 2015. Their divorce was finalized about two years later.
Once among Hollywood’s biggest stars, Depp said Heard’s allegations cost him “everything.” A new “Pirates” movie was put on hold and Depp was replaced in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise, a “Harry Potter” spinoff.
Depp lost a libel case less than two years ago against the Sun, a British tabloid that labeled him a “wife beater.” A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.
Depp’s lawyers filed the US case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant. — with reports from Reuters
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