Actor Johnny Depp has been allowed to pursue his $50 million defamation suit against his former wife and actress Amber Heard.
A Virginia judge on Friday refused to dismiss Depp's lawsuit against Heard, allowing him to proceed with a claim that she defamed him through a Washington Post opinion piece, reports variety.com.
Heard claimed assault by Depp
In the piece, published in 2018, Heard went back to her previous claims that Depp had assaulted her during their marriage, though she did not identify him by name. Judge Bruce D. White on Friday ruled that Depp can proceed under the theory that Heard's statements clearly implied that Depp had assaulted her.
"Plaintiff has pleaded circumstances that would reasonably cause three of the four statements at issue to convey the alleged defamatory meaning that Mr. Depp abused Ms. Heard, and this alleged meaning is in fact defamatory," White wrote.
50 million defamation suit
Depp filed the $50 million suit in March of 2019, taking issue with the headline of the piece and several statements within it that implied he was an abuser. The headline was: "Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence -- and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change."
Heard first accused Depp of abusing her in 2016, in the context of their divorce. Depp has said throughout that the allegations are false, and are conjured to help Heard's career.
The Virginia judge did throw out Depp's defamation claim with regard to a fourth statement in the piece. In that statement, she wrote about receiving death threats and being followed by paparazzi on the rare occasions when she left her home. "I felt as though I was on trial in the court of public opinion -- and my life and livelihood depended on myriad judgments far beyond my control," she wrote.
Intend to show proof abuse
White held that the statement carried no defamatory implication against Depp. White also rejected Heard's attorneys' claim that the suit was barred by the one-year statute of limitations because Heard was alluding to statements that had first been made in 2016. Heard's attorneys asserted that if necessary, they intend to show that she was abused.
"Today's decision leaves it to a jury to decide the meaning of Ms. Heard's op-ed and the truth of what she said," Kaplan said, adding: "As we have said all along, the courts have strong mechanisms in place for determining the truth. Here, we remain confident that Ms. Heard will prevail at trial when the jury is presented with evidence on the question that the Court identified – namely, whether 'Ms. Heard was abused by Mr. Depp'."