Insurance company sues Amber Heard over Johnny Depp verdict

Actress Amber Heard was pictured inside the Fairfax County Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia on June 1, 2022. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP via Getty Images.)

Insurance company is suing the actress Amber Heard on a three-pronged request: (1) that she be released from any obligation to pay for her defense in a recent defamation case by her ex-husband Johnny Depp(2) that it not be required to pay the multimillion-dollar judgment that Depp won against it, and (3) that it not have to pay the costs of ongoing litigation associated with a call.

The New York Marine and General Insurance Company filed a lawsuit against Heard on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. New York Marine insured Heard from July 18, 2018 to July 18, 2019 – a crucial period for the defamation case. This period includes the date Heard wrote and retweeted a now infamous Washington Post op-ed – an article in which she claimed she was “a public figure representing domestic violence”. The title was about Heard “speaking out against sexual violence” and “facing the wrath of our culture”.

The time period provided by New York Marine Heard also includes the March 1, 2019 filing date of Depp’s libel lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the computer servers of The Washington Post are located there and because the paper’s printing plant is located in Springfield, Virginia.

Heard Insurance Company’s claims were covered by a $1 million insurance policy from July 2018 to July 2019.

In the complaint, New York Marine notes that California insurance law provides that although an insurance company may be liable for the negligence of an insured, “an insurer is not liable for any loss caused by the deliberate act of the insured”.[.]New York Marine argues that since Heard was found by a Virginia jury to have acted with actual malice – in other words, willfully – in defaming Depp, the company should not have to compensate Heard.

The lawsuit also claims that New York Marine accepted Heard’s defense on October 1, 2019 through the law firm Cameron McEvoy and agreed to continue his coverage through that firm. However, New York Marine claims that Cameron McEvoy withdrew from the case on November 2, 2020 on the advice of Heard or attorneys representing her. This suggests that New York Marine did not approve a concurrent change of attorney and therefore should not have to pay Heard’s legal fees.

On June 1, a jury found that Heard defamed Depp via his editorial. The jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. However, the judgment reached $10.35 million in total, since punitive damages are capped at $350,000 under Virginia law. Jurors deliberated for 13 hours over three days after hearing testimony for six weeks.

The jury found Depp liable for a defamation counterclaim associated with a statement made by his attorney, Adam Waldmanto Daily Mail in April 2020. Waldman told the publication that Heard and his friends set up Depp by calling 911 and summoning first responders to his penthouse on May 21, 2016. That night, Heard asked Depp to come to the penthouse that they shared. Depp said he told Heard he planned to file for divorce. Depp testified that he went to the apartment to gather some things as he prepared to go on tour with his band, The Hollywood Vampires.

That night, Depp said he and Heard talked and she got angry. Heard claims Depp threw his phone in his face. Depp claims he did no such thing and left after his security team heard screams and rushed into the penthouse to take him away.

Six days later, Heard sought and was granted a domestic violence restraining order against Depp. The media waited for her exit from the Los Angeles County Courthouse and the story quickly spread around the world.

Depp denied ever physically or sexually abusing Heard.

Notably, Heard also had a home insurance policy through Travelers Insurance at the time she wrote the Washington Post editorial. In fact, a Travelers Insurance representative was in court during the libel trial each day, sitting in the gallery behind Heard.

In a separate case filed last year, Travelers Insurance sued New York Marine for what the former company called its “failure to provide [Heard] with an independent lawyer and other lawyers necessary to defend [Heard].” The result of this alleged failure, according to Travelers, was that Travelers was unfairly forced to pay its share of the defense. The judge in that case, which was also filed in the Central District of California, was asked to stay proceedings for 65 days in May.

Read New York Marine’s complaint against Heard, below.

(Image via Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP via Getty Images.)

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]

More Stories
The new stimulus bill makes giving to charities more attractive, but is it enough for struggling nonprofits?