Amber Heard: How will she pay $10 million in damages to Johnny Depp?

The verdict is in: Amber Heard has lost her case and must pay Johnny Depp over $10 million in damages.

On Wednesday, a Virginia court found that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp in a 2018 op-ed she wrote about being a victim of domestic abuse. As a result, she has been ordered to pay him $10 million in damages. But how will she pay?

Heard can 'absolutely not' afford to pay

On Thursday, Heard’s lawyer said the actress cannot afford to pay the $10 million penalty she owes Depp. When asked whether Heard would be able to pay the judgement, her attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, told the Today show: 'Oh no, absolutely not,' as reported by Insider.

Experts believe the verdict poses financial risks for the Aquaman actress, according to CBS News. While Heard's wealth is unclear, her finances were addressed during the trial. Terence Dougherty, an executive representing the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Heard halted her donations to the ACLU in 2019 as she was having 'financial difficulties.'

Will she file for bankruptcy?

So what are her options? Some believe that Heard may declare bankruptcy. However, according Bruce Markell, a professor of bankruptcy law and practice at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and former bankruptcy judge, she likely cannot use bankruptcy law to avoid having to pay Depp, as reported by Law&Crime.

Brian Pastor, an attorney in Atlanta who specialises in litigation and securities and has experience in dealing with judgments, agrees. Pastor points out that while she could file for bankruptcy, she might not be able to discharge the $10.35 million debt through insolvency, as reported by CBS News. That's due to a part of bankruptcy law that forces wrongdoers to pay debts stemming from 'willful and malicious injury by the debtor' to another party.

Pastor said:

The jury form said 'defamation with malice' — you can't do anything with malice unless you have the intent. It's my opinion that it's highly likely that would apply.

However, Pastor also points out that Depp would have to object to her trying to expunge the debt via bankruptcy, citing this part of law. There is the possibility he could choose not to object in such a situation.

Other options

If Heard decides not to go down the bankruptcy route, there are two other options, according to CBS News. She could garnish her wages and Depp could also go after her real estate, jewellery and other valuable items, claims Pastor. According to the US Department of Labour:

Wage garnishment is a legal procedure in which a person's earnings are required by court order to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt.

The final option is that Depp could waive the judgment and monetary damages, according to attorney Sandra Spurgeon of Spurgeon Law Group. He could also negotiate with Heard for a lower dollar figure, or if she appeals, agree to drop the judgement if she drops the appeal.

Read more:

This is why Amber Heard was awarded $2 million in the defamation trial

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: Jury has revealed the final verdict for the trial

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: What will happen to the person who loses the trial?

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