Last week, a Virginia jury condemned Amber Heard to pay Johnny Depp $15 million in damages for defaming him.
Fairfax County Judge Penney Azcarate cut the amount Heard would owe to $10.35 million, citing Virginia laws limiting punitive damages in defamation cases. But Heard’s lawyer Elaine Bredehoft told NBC “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie that her client simply couldn’t afford to pay that much to Depp.
On Wednesday, Johnny Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew suggested that Amber Heard may not have to pay the money after all. Asked by “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos whether Depp would agree to a settlement where Heard agrees not to appeal the case in return for “Depp waiving any monetary damages,” Chew hinted it was on the table.
“We obviously can’t disclose any attorney-client communications, but as Mr. Depp testified and as we both made clear in our respective closings, this was never about money for Mr. Depp,” Chew said. “This was about restoring his reputation, and he’s done that.”
Azcarate wants to give Depp and Heard a little more than two more weeks to come to an agreement about the future of the case.
Depp and Heard may agree to a settlement before then, in which case Azcarate may sign off on it rather than issue the jury verdict against both Heard and Depp.
The settlement agreement could include waiving the damages so long as Heard doesn’t appeal any part of the case. The parties might also agree to remove some of the defamation claims from the verdict, or reduce or eliminate the damages they owe each other.
Depp and Heard could also agree to make the payments simpler and have Heard pay Depp $8.35 million, rather than have her pay $10.35 million to Depp, and for Depp to pay $2 million to Heard in separate transactions.
Depp sued Heard in March 2019, alleging she defamed him when she published a Washington Post op-ed where she described herself as a victim of domestic violence. Heard filed a countersuit, alleging Depp abused her before and during their marriage, which ended in 2016, and that he defamed him through statements from his lawyer calling her claims a “hoax.” Jurors earlier this month mostly agreed with Depp following a six-week trial, deciding three claims in his favor and just one claim in Heard’s favor, with less in damages.
On the day of the jury verdict, Azcarate said in court she plans to hold a hearing on June 24, where she expects to either sign a settlement agreement or hear oral arguments from each side about the verdict. Once she signs the order, Heard has up to 30 days to file a notice of appeal to the Virginia state appellate court.