Penny Azcarate said that sufficient evidence had been presented by Depp’s lawyers to keep the case ongoing.
Heard’s motion to strike is almost a formality after plaintiffs’ wrap up their case, and it was expected that Azcarate would reject such an effort.
Attorneys for both sides presented oral arguments on the motion on Tuesday morning, without the jury present. For Heard’s legal team, the motion’s primary point is to assure certain appeal rights to the defense if necessary.
Depp sued his ex-wife over a 2018 Washington Post op ed headlined, “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” Heard wrote that “two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Although Depp is not named in the op ed, his attorneys argue that there was enough of a connection to Heard’s 2016 claims that he physically abused her.
Azcarate noted that “if there is a scintilla of evidence that a reasonable juror could weigh, then the matter survives a motion to strike.” She said that there was “evidence that jurors could weigh that the statements were about the plaintiff, that the statements were published and that the statement was false, and that the defendant made the statement knowing it to be false or that the defendant made it so recklessly as to amount to willful disregard for the truth. The weight of that evidence is up to the fact finders.” She said that she would not yet rule on whether a defamation claim should survive regarding one of Heard’s tweets.
Heard’s team had no comment on the judge’s ruling.
Earlier in the morning, Michael Spindler, an economic damages expert, testified that Depp “suffered lost earnings of approximately $40 million” over an almost two year period following the publication of the op ed. That included $20.3 million, after agency commissions, from the loss of playing Jack Sparrow in a Pirates 6, as well as $20.1 million from booking for non franchise films. Under questioning from Heard’s attorney, Spindler acknowledged that he was not offering testimony on whether the loss of earnings was caused by Heard’s op ed.
More to come.