Johnny Depp will have another opportunity to establish he’s been slandered by ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp’s career suffered a big setback in the UK in November when he lost a libel lawsuit against a British newspaper that dubbed him a “wife beater” based on charges made by ex-wife Amber Heard. Despite Depp’s setback in the UK, the troubled actor has a separate libel claim against Heard in the United States, and that trial will continue as planned.
A Virginia judge determined on Tuesday that the UK court’s ruling will not prejudice Johnny Depp’s libel claim against Amber Heard in the United States. Given the similarities between the lawsuits, Heard’s legal team fought for the Virginia court to recognize the UK ruling. 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.”
In a statement, one of Depp’s lawyers, Ben Chew, said, “Mr. Depp is most gratified by the Court’s decision.”
The move comes on the heels of another recent victory for Depp’s legal team, when a judge ruled that the ACLU must declare how much money Heard had actually donated to the charity to the court. She had previously stated that she would donate her entire divorce settlement of $7 million to the ACLU and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, but according to Depp’s lawyers, this declaration is false and unfairly influenced the outcome of the UK court case.
Heard is now in London filming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and despite a popular petition with over 1.8 million signatures calling for Warner Bros. to remove Heard from the sequel, the filmmakers are sticking with her, stating that her casting is finalized. Fans of Johnny Depp justifiably feel that it was an unjust decision by the same studio that forced Depp leave from his part as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3 when Heard seemed to prevail in court.
The Virginia trial is set to begin in April 2022. Heard’s attorneys have repeatedly attempted to get the case dismissed. She also filed a $100 million countersuit against Depp, which will be considered during the trial.