The recent, highly publicized defamation trial featuring actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard grabbed lots of headlines. Many of the stories centered on the more sensational, accusatory matters involving the two.
In the end, the jury favored Depp. But, how did the case come before the court? Defamation is defined as the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person. This includes libel (written) and slander (spoken statements).
To prove defamation, several key elements need to be shown: a false statement purporting to be fact; publication or communication of that statement to a third person; fault amounting to at least negligence; and damages, or some harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement.
The Depp case centered around an opinion piece written by Heard that was published by the Washington Post. While that was conducted on a large scale, think about how easy social media makes it to potentially defame someone. A few swipes on a smartphone and damage can be done.
Plain and simple: Communication is a two-way street. And there can be a fine line between free speech and defamation.
While the Depp/Heard case is fading from the spotlight, another high-profile defamation suit is coming in hot. Fox News is being sued Dominion Voting Systems, alleging the network acted maliciously by broadcasting vote-rigging conspiracies about the 2020 presidential election. Let’s see how this one plays out.
And, don't think we've heard the last from Amber Heard on this matter. Reports indicate she is in talks to write a "tell-all" book. Stay tuned.
Live in Central Florida and have questions about civil court procedures? Contact Woodard & Ferguson, Attorneys at Law