- The $15 million Amber Heard owes Johnny Depp was almost immediately reduced to around $10 million.
- However, the nearly $1 billion Jones owes won’t go down the same way.
- It depends on the types of damages awarded by the jury, and whether or how state law defines them.
When a jury awarded damages in the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp defamation case earlier this year, the large amount owed to the actress was almost immediately reduced thanks to laws that will not similarly help Alex Jones reduce his nearly $1 billion judgment.
In June, a Virginia jury found both Depp and Heard liable for defamation of each other in what was widely seen as a victory for Depp. The actor had sued his ex-wife for calling herself a victim of domestic violence in a 2018 article, which was followed by a counterattack from Heard.
While the jury awarded Heard $2 million in damages, Depp received $15 million in damages. However, the amount Heard owed was quickly reduced to about $10 million in order to comply with Virginia state law on punitive damages.
Juries can award different types of damages, including punitive and compensatory damages.
“Punishers are simply seeking to punish a defendant. Damages are intended to make the plaintiff whole,” Matthew Barhoma, attorney and founder of Power Trial Lawyers and Barhoma Law, told Insider.
Heard was initially ordered to pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. However, because Virginia state law caps punitive damages at $350,000, the judge overseeing the case reduced any he was owed. In total, what she was ordered to pay Depp went from $15 million to just over $10 million almost immediately.
A Connecticut jury on Wednesday avoided a similar situation after ordering Jones to pay $965 million for defamation of Sandy Hook families. Jones spent years spreading false conspiracy theories about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead.
But the jury categorized all damages as compensatory rather than punitive. Attorneys told Insider Connecticut state law has no cap on damages, meaning the verdict won’t be immediately reduced by the judge. Jones will likely appeal, but Barhoma noted that an appellate court may be reluctant to interfere with damages awarded by a jury.
Connecticut does have caps on punitive damages, which a judge can choose to award later, according to CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Punitive damages to the state will be limited to attorneys’ fees and court costs, he said.
States have wide latitude to set their own caps on various types of damages, so such caps vary widely from state to state.