Johnny Depp, 59, was awarded more than $10 million by a Virginia court on June 1 after winning a defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, 36, over an op-ed that she wrote in 2018, in which she claimed that she was abused by the actor. On June 24, Virginia judge Penney Azcarate finalized the verdict by entering it into the docket and, just hours later, Deadline reported that Amber had officially appealed. The article stated that Amber’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft was told that Amber would have to have to put up an $8.35 million bond in order to move forward with the appeal. This means that Amber will be on the hook for almost $20 million, which is a hefty amount considering that, on June 1, Elaine said during an interview on Today that Amber could “absolutely not” afford to pay Johnny the large settlement that she owes him. Does this mean that, if Amber cannot afford to pay him, Johnny doesn’t get paid?
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 2, 2022
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY to Attorney Raiford Dalton Palmer — a managing partner at the Chicago-based STG Divorce Law firm and the author of the Amazon bestseller “I Just Want This Done” — who told us how Johnny would still get his payment from Amber regardless of what her current financial situation is. According to Attorney Palmer, who has not worked on this case, “Johnny has a judgment saying she owes him. He can collect against her assets and income for decades. But smart people with money know how to shelter assets. She might try to use bankruptcy to slow down payment, but this is not a cure-all.” However, now that Amber has officially appealed, does this mean that she has to pay him now? Check out the rest of the interview to find out!
HollywoodLife: Would it matter who pays who first?
Attorney Palmer: Not really. They are independent judgments. She can go try to enforce hers, he can do the same assuming no one appeals and gets a stay. Judgments typically become final after 30 days if no one files a post-trial motion or an appeal.
HollywoodLife: What is the next step for Amber? Will Amber move forward with the appeal? What grounds does she have to do so?
Attorney Palmer: An appeal is used to claim the trial court made errors in its application of the law – for example, that certain evidence was not allowed into the case (one example here were medical records of Heard’s) or that an improper jury instruction was given. You must show that the trial court made an error or errors in its application of the law and that those errors were not harmless. Trial courts are given great deference in their decision making as are juries.
HollywoodLife: Will the appeal put a stop on the money she owes him?
Attorney Palmer: An appeal could stay the execution of the judgment (her team can get a court order delaying the money judgment pending the appeal). In that case, she would be required to post a bond to secure the judgment amount. But it is not carte blanche to repeat and republish defamatory statements. However, this is a calculated risk — theoretically, all of the possible harm has been done and if people believe Depp, he won’t suffer new damages.
HollywoodLife: Can a party appeal if they simply did not like the outcome?
Attorney Palmer: An appeal is not a “do-over” of a trial. They are hard to win. Even a “win” for Amber Heard might at best result in some part of the case being tried again. But again, jury verdicts are VERY hard to overturn and should be.
HollywoodLife: Amber Heard is still saying in interviews that she was abused by Johnny, Can he go after her for another defamation lawsuit because of this?
Attorney Palmer: Yes, if she publishes allegations again and he suffers actual damages, but it’s hard to prove actual damage with defamation. If Depp’s career does well going forward, he won’t have much to show for damages. The court of public opinion seems to have decided that Depp was cleared by this trial.
HollywoodLife: This case centers around an op-ed article that Amber wrote. But is written word more defamatory than spoken word? Do they both carry the same weight?
Attorney Palmer: There’s no difference between written and spoken. If it’s spoken, you just need the evidence of the publication (recorded video, radio broadcast, podcast, etc.)
HollywoodLife: What would you advise Amber to do if she were your client?
Attorney Palmer: If she agrees with Johnny to give up on the appeal in exchange for him not collecting money from her, can she continue to discuss it? I’d advise her to stop digging and work out a deal with Depp to put this behind them both. From reports, it sounds like he’s interested in ending this. Her chance of success on an appeal is a long shot. Any deal would include a confidentiality agreement and a non-disparagement provision with a liquidated damages clause to keep her from repeating the defamation statements and any other negative statements about Depp. He would buy her silence by releasing part or all of the judgment in my opinion.