Johnny Depp will have another chance to prove he’s been libeled. In November, Depp’s career suffered a major blow in the UK when lost his libel lawsuit against the British tabloid that called him a “wife beater” based on allegations made by ex-wife Amber Heard. In the United States, the embattled actor has a separate libel suit against Heard directly, and that trial will still move forward as scheduled despite Depp’s loss in the UK.
On Tuesday, a Virginia judge ruled that the UK court’s decision will not affect Johnny Depp’s libel suit against Amber Heard in the US. Heard’s legal team had pushed for the Virginia court to recognize the U.K. judgment given the similarities between the lawsuits, asking for the judge to declare the matter already adjudicated. In response, Fairfax County Chief Judge Penney Azcarate rejected the motion, citing a lack of privity.
“The Sun’s interests were based on whether the statements the newspaper published were false. [Heard’s] interests relate to whether the statements she published were false,” the judge wrote in an opinion. “Although the claims are similar in the sense they both relate to claims of abuse by [Depp], the statements being defended in the UK case are inherently different than the statements published by [Heard]. Therefore, given Virginia’s narrow construction of privity, [Heard] and The Sun are not in privity.”
“In fact, Defendant could not have been a named defendant to the U.K. litigation because her allegedly defamatory statements were made after the U.K. action commenced,” the judge added. “If anything, upholding English libel judgments in the United States would create the chilling effect and could create a dangerous precedent.”
Ben Chew, one of Depp’s lawyers, told Deadline in a statement that “Mr. Depp is most gratified by the Court’s decision.” The move follows another recent win for Depp’s legal team when a judge ruled that the American Civil Liberties Union must reveal to the court how much money Heard had donated to the charity. She had previously pledged to donate her entire $7 million divorce settlement to the ACLU and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Depp’s lawyers say that this claim is false and that it influenced the UK court case’s outcome.
As of now, Heard is on location in London to work on the superhero sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Although there was a popular petition calling for Warner Bros. to have Heard removed from the sequel, the filmmakers are standing by her, noting that her casting is what’s “best for the movie.” This was met with backlash from Johnny Depp fans who argued that it’s unfair for the same studio to have Depp resign from his role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3.
The Virginia trial is scheduled to be heard in April 2022. It was originally going to take place before the UK trial but had been delayed numerous times. Heard’s lawyers have repeatedly tried to get the case tossed. Additionally, she filed a $100 million countersuit against Depp, and this will also be examined at the trial. This news comes to us from Deadline.