After the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, one big question still remains, with many asking what happens if the actress can’t pay up.
Now that the lawsuit between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has come to an end, many are now wondering what the outcome really means for both actors.
Just in case you somehow missed it, Heard was ordered to pay Depp $10 million in defamation damages and $5 million (US$7 million) in punitive damages after the jury decided that she “acted with malicious intent.”
However, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Penny Azkarat reduced Depp’s punitive damages to $350,000 (AU$487,000), the state’s statutory limit, bringing his total damages to $10.4 million. (A$14.49 million). .
The jury agreed on one aspect of Heard’s claim – that she was defamed by Depp’s lawyer when he called her allegations of abuse a hoax.
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This led to Aquaman the star receives US$2 million (AU$2.78 million) in damages and $0 in punitive damages.
Depp first sued Heard for $50 million over an article she wrote in Washington Post in 2018, where she referred to her experience of domestic violence.
He claimed that although his name was not mentioned in the article, it still tarnished his reputation and career.
Hurd then filed a $100 million (AU$140 million) counterclaim claiming she was defamed when Depp’s lawyer Adam Waldman issued public statements calling her accusations “abuse hoax” and “fake”.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what these rulings really mean and what’s next for Depp and Heard, including what happens if one of them doesn’t pay up.
What is compensatory damages?
Let’s start with the main thing in this decision: damages.
Compensatory damages are intended to compensate plaintiffs for any actual loss they have suffered and are awarded where the loss resulted from the negligence or unlawful conduct of the other party.
These damages cover costs arising from both physical injury and non-pecuniary injury such as psychological harm, emotional stress and humiliation.
Compensatory damages are often used by the court to try to put the plaintiff in the position they would have been had they not suffered the damage.
To obtain such compensation, the plaintiff must prove that the damages occurred and that they can be attributed to the defendant.
There are two types of compensation for harm: economic and non-economic.
Economic compensatory damages refers to damages that have resulted in tangible monetary losses such as medical treatment, loss of income, loss of property and legal costs.
Non-economic compensatory damages refer to non-pecuniary losses suffered by the claimant.
They can be harder to calculate as there is no set amount of money related to damages and they can include things like pain, suffering and emotional distress.
What are penalties?
Penalties aim to punish a person for their wrongdoing and deter others from doing the same.
These types of damages are usually awarded only in cases where the defendant’s conduct was found to be grossly negligent or malicious.
This means that penalties are not always awarded in every case, and if they are, they are in addition to compensatory damages.
If they are awarded, this means that the court, in fact, punishes the defendant, who then must pay the amount of money indicated by the court and transfer it to the plaintiff.
The key difference between punitive damages and compensatory damages is that the latter is meant to give you something back that you have lost, while the former is solely meant to punish you.
What happens if Depp or Heard can’t pay?
Now that the lawsuit is over, Hurd has to pay Depp US$10.4 million (AU$14 million) and Depp has to pay Hurd US$2 million (AU$2.78 million).
But what happens if one of them says they don’t have the money to make amends?
According to the website Celebrity Net Worth, Depp is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, with a current net worth estimated at around US$150 million (AU$209 million).
However, his financial troubles were hinted at during the trial, with his former manager and agent testifying that his exorbitant spending had eroded his wealth over time.
But the focus is actually on Heard, with several witnesses hinting at the booth that she might not have immediate funds to pay the Pirates of the Caribbean star.
Although Heard made millions from her television and film career, as well as US$7 million (AU$10 million) from her divorce from Depp, it has been suggested that the lawsuit hurt her financially.
Heard originally promised the nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to settle the $7 million divorce, but when asked about it during her trial, she stated that she was unable to honor her pledge due to the $50 million. lawsuit against her.
Former U.S. Attorney Neamah Rahmani told The Daily Beast that Hurd has little time to raise funds.
In Virginia, Depp has up to 30 years to recover.
Rahmani told the publication that if any of the actors claims that they do not have the means to pay, then both parties have the right to ask for evidence in the form of financial indicators.
“I don’t think she can pay. She kept $7 million for herself because she had to pay legal fees,” he said. “The question is, is Johnny Depp really going to enforce the judgment against his ex-wife. Is he really going to take her salary? She may have to raise her bank accounts for this.”
Mr. Rahmani added that the entire lawsuit was clearly about “more than money,” with Depp himself saying that the lawsuit was about “truth.”
“It’s about justification and fact-finding,” Mr. Rahmani said.
Hurd may also choose to appeal the verdict in the hope of getting a more favorable ruling.
However, if she chooses to go that route, she will have to post a $10.4 million bail in damages.
Another option, if Heard really can’t pay, is to declare himself bankrupt.
This would eliminate the $10 million settlement, but she would probably still be on the hook for $350,000 in punitive damages.