Amber Heard’s lawyers submitted a court filing on Tuesday stating various reasons for appealing the $10.35 million defamation judgement made against her earlier this year.
The four-page petition, titled Appellant’s Designation of Assignments of Error, is a special brief required by Old Dominion appellate procedures and was filed with the Virginia Court of Appeals. While some media reports referred to the brief paper as a “appellate brief,” a full brief is expected to be submitted later.
During the dramatic court fight that drew millions of spectators around the world over the month of June, Heard’s ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp, asserted that he was defamed in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed on domestic abuse. The essay was vetted by ACLU lawyers, yet it was published under the actress’s identity. Heard, on the other hand, won a $2 million verdict in her favour after one of Depp’s attorneys referred to her violence accusations as a “fake story.”
According to the petition on Monday, the fact that both parties technically won at trial was enough for the court to dismiss the case since the various wins are “inherently and irreconcilably incongruous.”
In late July, Heard’s legal team filed notice of intent to appeal her loss. The next day, Depp’s legal team filed their own notice of appeal from all unfavourable findings and from the final judgement order of the Fairfax County court that presided over the two defamation cases.
The most current filing in the lawsuit is an outline that provides a brief overview of how and why Heard intends to appeal.
The Virginia Supreme Court has clarified why an appellant is required to produce such a document while filing an appeal- The aim of assignments of error is to identify the mistakes with reasonable certainty in order to lead this court and opposing counsel to the issues on which appellant plans to request a reversal of the decision, and to restrict debate to these matters.
Without such assignments, the appellee would be unable to prepare an impactful brief in opposition to the granting of an appeal, decide which portions of the record to designate for printing, guarantee himself of the rightness of the record while it is in the clerk’s office, or file assignments of cross-error in civil cases.
Heard’s brief includes 16 grounds for appeal, starting with the assertion that the trial court should have rejected the case since it originated somewhere other than northern Virginia.
According to the complaint, the trial erred in not dismissing Depp’s allegations after he lost a similar libel action in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the submission claims that the UK judgement should have been admitted into evidence.
On a basic level, the petition claims that the trial court incorrectly concluded that the assertions Depp objected about in the op-ed were “actionable as statements of fact instead of non-actionable expressions of view” and “actionable as defamation by implication.” In other words, Heard’s lawyers claim that Heard was expressing First Amendment-protected beliefs. They also appear to be arguing that those views did not affect Depp since his name was not included in the op-ed.
The trial court erred in denying Mr. Depp’s motion to set aside the jury’s verdict because he failed to show that the supposedly defamatory statements in the questioned op-ed each communicated a defamatory meaning about him by implication and that any such implication was both designed and intended by Ms. Heard, the document continues.
Heard’s legal team, in particular, objects to the judgment that Heard legally printed the following sentences- She stood up against sexual violence and faced the culture’s fury. This must change. Those phrases comprise the op-title; ed’s authors seldom construct their own headlines in the media industry.
Heard’s brief also mentions a number of evidentiary problems- the trial court erred in excluding evidence at trial (a) medical records, including Ms. Heard’s contemporaneous communications with medical providers such as Dr. Laura Anderson, Dr. David Kipper, Ms. Debbie Lloyd, Ms. Erin Falatib, Dr. Amy Banks, Dr. Connell Cowan, and Dr. Bonnie Jacobs, and (b) Ms. Heard’s communications with several third parties, including Mr. Depp’s employees and employees, acquaintances, and relatives of Ms. Heard has told her about her encounters with Mr. Depp, involving claims of drug usage, belligerent and violent behavior, physical assault, and her worry for her safety.
The trial court erred in excluding evidence at trial regarding Mr. Depp’s reputation both before and after the publication of the challenged op-ed.
Heard further claims that the trial court erred by permitting Depp to claim or imply at trial that the jury may award damages based on remarks or behavior happening prior to the publication of the challenged op-ed.
Heard claims that the trial court “incorrectly directed the jury on real malice” by emphasizing on the legal grounds under which she was held responsible. Actual malice is the legal criterion established by the United States Supreme Court to regulate defamation cases where a high-profile individual alleges they have been defamed or slandered.
The trial court erred in granting Mr. Depp’s requests to dismiss and set aside the jury’s judgment because he failed to show real malice by clear and convincing evidence, the complaint continues.