Heard’s counterclaim centers on statements made by an attorney for Depp, Adam Waldman, who claimed in a Daily Mail interview that the actresses’ allegations of domestic abuse were fabricated. Judge Penney Azcarate said that there was enough evidence to show that Waldman was acting as an agent for Depp, rejecting the actor’s attorney’s argument that Heard should be suing Waldman, not her ex-husband.
Azcarate’s decision is not surprise, as motions to strike routinely come during trial proceedings and rarely are granted, reflecting the high threshold for dismissing a case before it gets to the jury. Depp’s attorney Benjamin Chew argued for their motion on Tuesday morning, just before Heard’s legal team rested their case.
The judge previously denied Heard’s motion to strike Depp’s case. She also said that there was enough evidence of actual malice — the threshold for defamation cases against public figures — for the jury to render its judgment.
“As to actual malice, Mr. Waldman made the counterclaim statements after he met with his client,” the judge said. “In addition, there’s evidence [Depp] was with Mr. Waldman at a meeting in February, 2020 with the Daily Mail Online.” She added that “there is more than a scintilla of evidence that a reasonable juror may infer that Mr. Waldman made the counterclaim statements while realizing they were false or with a reckless disregard for their truth.”
Heard sued Depp in August, 2020, more than a year after the actor filed his $50 million defamation claim against her.
Azcarate was not weighing in on whose side she thinks will prevail, but merely whether each side had met its threshold for their case to continue. As she noted, “it is not my role to measure the weight of the evidence.”
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