A judge has denied Johnny Depp’s attempts to have his ex-wife Amber Heard’s counterclaims thrown out of court.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million (£39 million) after she referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse” in a Washington Post article in 2018. He claimed he had been defamed in the piece, even though Heard didn’t name him, stating it suggested the actress was a domestic abuse victim and he “perpetrated domestic violence against her”.
The Aquaman actress subsequently launched a $100 million (£78 million) counterclaim against Depp, which the Pirates of the Caribbean star had sought to have dismissed under the new anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law passed in Virginia last year.
However, Fairfax County Judge Bruce White denied the request, citing the comments made by both Depp and his attorney Adam Waldman – who previously described Heard’s allegations as a “sexual violence hoax” – as reason for Heard’s case to proceed.
“(Depp and Waldman’s comments) imply that Ms. Heard lied and perjured herself when she appeared before a court in 2016 to obtain a temporary restraining order against Mr. Depp,” White wrote. “Moreover they imply that she lied about being a victim of domestic abuse.
“In light of the #MeToo Movement and today’s social climate, falsely claiming abuse would surely ‘injure (Ms. Heard’s) reputation in the common estimation of mankind’. Therefore, this Court finds that the statements contain the requisite ‘sting’ for an actionable defamation claim.
“Although Mr. Depp’s statements (and those of his attorney) can be understood as their opinion of what occurred, these statements nevertheless imply that Mr. Depp did not abuse Ms. Heard. These statements must survive demurrer because whether Mr. Depp abused Ms. Heard is a fact that is capable of bring proven true or false.”
Judge White also ruled against Heard’s claim that Depp had tainted her name by trying to have her removed from the Aquaman franchise by bombarding her with a torrent of online abuse.
“The pleading fails to demonstrate that the social media accounts communicated obscene language, suggested obscene acts, or threatened illegal or immoral acts,” he wrote. “Rather, it appears that Mr. Depp texted those statements, privately, to two of his friends, and Ms. Heard has not alleged that Mr. Depp intended for her to see them.”
The case is due to head to trial later this year.