Insurance company denies responsibility for judgment in Depp v. Heard

Posted at 4:31 PM, July 12, 2023 and last updated 7:06 AM, July 13, 2023


LOS ANGELES (Court TV) — Actress Amber Heard is facing a new lawsuit from her insurance company, which claims it should not have to pay out the multi-million dollar judgment awarded to Johnny Depp after the former couple faced off in Virginia court.

Amber Heard walks out of the Fairfax County courthouse.

FILE – Actress Amber Heard departs the Fairfax County Courthouse after closing arguments on May 27, 2022 in Fairfax, Va. Heard says she doesn’t blame the jury that awarded Johnny Depp more than $10 million after a contentious six-week libel trial in her first post-verdict interview. She told Savannah Guthrie of “Today” in a clip aired Monday that she understood how the jury reached its conclusion and said Depp is a “beloved character and people feel they know him.” (AP Photo/Craig Hudson, File)

A jury found in Depp’s favor on June 1, 2022, awarding him $10,000,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages for defamatory statements Heard made about the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor. The punitive damages were later reduced to $350,000, in compliance with state law.

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At the time the lawsuit was filed, on March 1, 2019, Heard was covered by an insurance policy from New York Marine & General Insurance Company. While the company acknowledges that Heard’s policy was in good standing when the suit was filed, the company cites California law in its own lawsuit filed July 8, 2023, against Heard.

“An insurer is not liable for a loss caused by the willful act of the insured; but he is not exonerated by the negligence of the insured, or of the insured’s agents or others.”

New York Marine & General Insurance Company argued in its filing that because Heard made the decision to publish the op-ed in The Washington Post containing the defamatory statements, it is not liable to pay out the policy.

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The insurance company said in its lawsuit that when Depp filed his lawsuit against Heard, she was represented by Cameron McEvoy PLLC. As part of Heard’s policy, New York Marine & General was providing a legal defense through Heard’s attorneys. In the lawsuit, New York Marine & General said Heard had her other law firms, which began working on her defense, intentionally excluding McEvoy from her defense. Cameron McEvoy LLC withdrew from the case on Nov. 2, 2020.

New York Marine & General said that because Heard failed to comply with the conditions of her policy, they have no duty to further defend Heard in any matters stemming from Depp’s suit.

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In a response to the lawsuit filed in court, Heard denied that there was any issue regarding New York Marine & General’s liability, saying that the Depp lawsuit had been settled with another insurer paying the settlement. She also denied that there was any issue regarding the company’s obligation to any ongoing defense, because the lawsuit was resolved.

In a countersuit filed by Heard against the insurer, Heard claimed that the company failed in its duty to represent her, arguing she was “entitled to independent counsel and New York Marine failed to provide such counsel.”