A jury on Wednesday found that actor Johnny Depp was defamed by ex-wife Amber Heard, and awarded him a total of $15 million in monetary damages. But due to Virginia law, Depp was actually awarded millions less.
The jury found that Heard defamed Depp in an op-ed about domestic violence, published at The Washington Post in 2018. The “Aquaman” actress was awarded $2 million over statements Depp lawyer Adam Waldman wrote about Heard allegedly intentionally messing up her apartment to stage a hoax against Depp.
“Reason why jury awarded $5M in punitive damages to #JohnnyDepp but in reality he’ll get much less: Virginia law caps punitive damages at $350K regardless of the verdict, but the jury doesn’t get told about the limit ahead of time,” Court TV’s Julia Jenae explained Wednesday.
Jenae also linked to the Virginia law about limitation on recovery of punitive damages, which reads as follows:
In any action accruing on or after July 1, 1988, including an action for medical malpractice under Chapter 21.1 (§ 8.01-581.1 et seq.), the total amount awarded for punitive damages against all defendants found to be liable shall be determined by the trier of fact. In no event shall the total amount awarded for punitive damages exceed $350,000. The jury shall not be advised of the limitation prescribed by this section. However, if a jury returns a verdict for punitive damages in excess of the maximum amount specified in this section, the judge shall reduce the award and enter judgment for such damages in the maximum amount provided by this section.
Reason why jury awarded $5M in punitive damages to #JohnnyDepp but in reality he’ll get much less:
Virginia law caps punitive damages at $350K regardless of the verdict, but the jury doesn’t get told about the limit ahead of time ⚖️ @CourtTV https://t.co/0Be5ABZFW8 https://t.co/iS8T5ggAEq
— Julia Jenaé (@JuliaCourtTV) June 1, 2022
Therefore, Depp was essentially awarded a total of $10.35 million. And if you offset that number to include Heard’s $2 million, the actor nets about $8.3 million.
Notably, Depp and his legal team repeatedly emphasized to the court that the actor filed the suit to clear his name, not necessarily for the money. And the verdict certainly did that, finding Heard culpable of defaming Depp by way of her damning Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence.
Depp acknowledged this much in a statement following the verdict.
“Six years later, the jury gave me my life back,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star said in a statement to Law&Crime Network. “I am truly humbled.”
Depp went on to say his life was turned upside-down when Heard launched her accusations against him, fingering the media for perpetuating the lies.
“False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me,” he wrote. “It had already traveled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and my career.”
Depp added that he pursued the case in the first place to “reveal the truth.”
— Chanley Shá Painter (@ChanleyCourtTV) June 1, 2022
Heard, on the other hand, seemed to double-down on her allegations.
“The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” the actress wrote in a statement, reacting to the verdict. “I’m heartbroken that the mounting of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband.”
“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women,” Heard continued. “It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”
“I’m sad I lost this case,” she closed. “But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American – to speak freely and openly.”
— Amber Heard (@realamberheard) June 1, 2022
During the intense trial, Heard detailed serious allegations of abuse at the hands of Depp, including a rape with a possibly broken Maker’s Mark bottle.
Depp and his legal team denied all allegations and told the jury that Heard perpetrated a #MeToo hoax to take from Depp, and also to punish him for leaving her.
The trial started on April 12, and lasted six weeks.