Here’s Why Amber Got $2M From Johnny in Their Defamation Trial—He Was Found Liable For Something He Didn’t Say

Amber Heard
Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP.

Scroll To See More Images

If you’ve heard about the Johnny vs. Amber verdict, you may have the question: Why did Amber Heard get $2 million in her defamation case against Johnny Depp? The jury found the Pirates of the Caribbean star liable of one count of defamation against his ex-wife.

Depp and Heard were married from 2015 to 2016. Heard filed for divorce in May 2016 after 15 months of marriage. In her divorce filing, she also obtained a temporary restraining order against Depp, claiming that he abused her while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Depp denied the accusations, and a $7 million settlement was reached out of court in August 2016. Heard pledged to donate the money to the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. “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,” the two aid in a joint statement at the time.

In 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post about her experience with domestic abuse. While she didn’t mention Depp by name, many believed that the post was about her ex-husband. Depp sued Heard for $50 million for defamation in 2019, claiming that the op-ed cost him acting jobs, including his roles in Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts series. Heard, for her part, countersued Depp for $100 million.

The trial for the case started in April 2022 and concluded in June 2022, where a seven-person jury consisting of five men and two women found Heard liable of all three counts of defamation in her lawsuit with Depp. The jury ordered Heard to pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages for a total of $15 million. Depp, for his part, was found guilty of one count of defamation against Heard by the jury and was ordered to pay her $2 million in compensatory damages and zero dollars in punitive damages for a total of $2 million. Due to the cap on punitive damages under Virginia state law, Judge Penney Azcarate reduced Heard’s punitive damages from $5 million to $350,000. If Heard and Depp’s damages are netted against each other, Heard will have to pay Depp a total of $8.35 million in damages, accounting for the $2 million in compensatory damages he owes her.

So…why did Amber Heard get $2 million in her defamation case against Johnny Depp? Read on for what Depp was found liable compared to his ex-wife and the statement that was made that cost him $2 million.

Why did Amber Heard get $2 million in Johnny Depp’s verdict?

Amber Heard

Image: AP Photo/Steve Helber.

Why did Amber Heard get $2 million in Johnny Depp’s verdict? Heard was found liable of all three counts of defamation in her lawsuit with Depp in June 2022. The jury ordered Heard to pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages for a total of $15 million. Depp, for his part, was found liable of one count of defamation against Heard by the jury and was ordered to pay her $2 million in compensatory damages and zero dollars in punitive damages for a total of $2 million. Due to the cap on punitive damages under Virginia state law, Judge Penney Azcarate reduced Heard’s punitive damages from $5 million to $350,000. After the $2 million in damages Depp owes her, Heard will have to pay Depp a total of $8.35 million.

But…why did Amber get $2 million in Johnny Depp’s verdict at all? The verdict came after Depp sued Heard for $50 million for defamation in 2019 for an op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post about her experience with domestic abuse. While she didn’t mention Depp by name, many believed that the post was about her ex-husband. As a result, Depp claimed that the op-ed cost him acting jobs, including his roles in Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts series. Heard, for her part, countersued Depp for $100 million, alleging that he had defamed her by claiming that she lied about his abuse. Heard’s $15 million in damages owed to Depp came from his $50 million defamation lawsuit against her, while Depp’s $2 million in damages owed to Heard came from her $100 million defamation countersuit against him.

During the verdict, the jury found Depp liable of defamation for a statement his lawyer, Adam Waldman, published in The Daily Mail on April 27, 2020. The statement read: “Quite simply, this was an ambush. A Hoax. They set Mr. Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt did not do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed and left after seeing no damages to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their story straight under the direction of a lawyer and a publicist, and then placed a second call to 911.”

When asked if the jury found that Heard had “proven all the elements of defamation,” the answer was yes. When asked if the jury found that Heard had proven by a greater weight of the evidence that Mr. Waldman, while acting as an agent for Mr. Depp,  made or published this statement,” the answer was also yes. The jury also answered yes to questions about if the statement was about Heard and if someone other than Heard had seen the statement. When the jury was asked the statement was false, the answer was no. When the jury was asked if Heard had “proven by clear and convincing evidence that the statement by Mr. Waldman was made in actual malice,” the answer was also yes.

While Depp was found liable of one count of defamation, he wasn’t found liable of two other statements made by Waldman. One statement was published in The Daily Mail on April 8, 2020: “Amber Heard and her friends in the media used fake sexual violence allegations as both a sword and shield depending on her needs. They have selected some of her sexual violence hoax facts as a sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr. Depp.” When the jury was asked if Heard had “proven all elements of defamation,” the answer was no. A second statement was published in The Daily Mail on April 27, 2020: “We’ve reached the beginning of the end of Ms. Heard’s abuse hoax against Johnny Depp.” When the jury was asked if Heard had “proven all elements of defamation” for this statement, the answer was also no. In the end, the jury ordered Depp to pay Heard $2 million of compensatory damages and zero dollars of punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are “money awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for damages, injury, or another incurred loss,” according to Investopedia. In civil court cases, compensatory damages are awarded where “loss has occurred as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another party,” the site reports. Punitive damages, on the other hand are “legal recompense that a defendant found guilty of committing a wrong or offense is ordered to pay on top of compensatory damages,” according to Investopedia.

What happens to Amber Heard now after Johnny Depp’s verdict?

Amber Heard

Image: AP Photo/Steve Helber.

What happens to Amber Heard now after Johnny Depp’s verdict? Given that Heard is worth $8 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, it’s possible that she may be able to afford to pay Depp the total $8.35 million in damages. So what happens to Amber Heard now after Johnny Depp’s verdict? Depp would have a money judgment against Amber which he could collect on by levying against most of her assets (not her home if she has homesteaded it). Whether she could declare bankruptcy for a large portion of the verdict would in large part depend on what assets and liabilities she has,” Stacy Phillips, a family law and divorce attorney and partner at Blank Rome LLP, explained to StyleCaster.

Mark Breyer, an Arizona-based trial and personal injury lawyer, explained in a TikTok prior to Heard and Depp’s verdict that Heard may have to file for bankruptcy if she cannot pay the damages she owes Depp. “You can’t get blood from a turnip,” Breyer said. “That’s the reality. We don’t have debtors prison anymore. So what’s going to happen is he [Depp] could go after all the money she had, she would probably file for bankruptcy, but certain things would be protected in bankruptcy. But the reality is that’s the problem with laws where people aren’t required to have insurance.”

Attorney Sandra Spurgeon of Spurgeon Law Group in Lexington, Kentucky, told CBS News after the verdict that it’s a serious deal if Heard can’t pay Depp the damages she owes him. “For an individual who doesn’t have the ability to pay the judgment and no ability to post the bond, then there is a real issue if the winning party intends to execute the judgment,” Spurgeon said. Spurgeon told CBS News that she predicts that Heard’s lawyers will try to appeal the verdict in hopes of a more favorable judgement and to reduce the payment. Another option is for Heard to post a bond for the $8.35 million in damages, which may not be feasible.

“The question is if she says, ‘Look, I don’t have it. It’s not there — you can look in my bank accounts,’ then we can talk about things like garnishing her wages,” said CBS News legal contributor Jessica Levinson told the site. “That’s not an unusual situation where somebody says, ‘I don’t have — I can’t fulfill this,’ and so I certainly think because she has earning potential, part of her wages could be garnished as a result.” CBS News explained that if Heard was to file for bankruptcy, that would only eliminate the $8 million in compensatory damages, but she’d still have to pay the $350,000 in punitive damages, which generally can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy. Spurgeon also noted that Depp could choose not to execute the judgement and waive the monetary damages which would free Heard from her financial obligations. “He’s in the driver’s seat right now,” she said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) for confidential support.

New Entertainment Newsletter

share