Difference between punitive and compensatory damages explained as jury rules in Johnny Depp's favor

Johnny Depp ( Image via JIM LO SCALZO / Getty Images)
Johnny Depp ( Image via JIM LO SCALZO / Getty Images)
Sachin Goswami

On Wednesday, Johnny Depp won a defamation suit against his ex-wife Amber Heard after a jury determined that she lied when she claimed Depp abused her during their relationship.

The jury unanimously determined that Heard's allegations against Depp could not be substantiated and that she knew her claims of abuse were false when she published her 2018 essay.


According to the jury, Heard acted with actual malice when she wrote her op-ed. In his defamation suit, a jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

On one count, the jury determined that Depp defamed Heard through Waldman. Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages but no punitive damages.

Johnny Depp reacted to the verdict by saying:

"Jury Gave Me My Life Back"

Meanwhile, Amber Heard said:

β€œI’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,”
Johnny Depp won against his ex wife Amber Heard and will be awarded $15 million damages against his ex wife. his his ex wife's net worth is estimate around $8 million

Compensatory damage is intended to compensate a person for their injuries. Medical bills, pain and suffering, wage loss, and permanent impairment of function are all examples of compensatory damage.

@CNN Your heading should be. "Johnny Depp awarded Compensatory and Punitive damage against heard for a total of 15M. Heard awarded 2M for compensatory damages and O for punitive." THAT'S HOW YOU GET A STORY STRAIGHT.

Punitive damage is extremely rare. It is only awarded when the defendant's conduct is grossly negligent or dangerously close to reckless or criminal behavior. In such a case, the jury finds that the defendant must be punished for their wrongdoing.

Punitive damage is not intended to compensate someone for a loss. Instead, it is intended to punish the wrongdoer for acting beyond mere negligence.

The verdict represents legal redemption for Johnny Depp, who lost a libel case in the UK two years ago over allegations that he hit Heard.

Johnny Depp v Amber Heard case and verdict explored

Johnny Depp sought $50 million in damages, but the jury awarded him $15 million β€” $10 million in compensatory and $5 million in punitive damages. However, Judge Penney Azcarate quickly reduced the punitive damages figure to $350,000, the state's maximum allowable.

10 million compensatory damages and 5 million in punitive damage (later reduced by Judge to 350,000) for Johnny, 2 million in compensatory damages and 0 dollars in punitive damages for Amber #TruthWins #verdictwatch #JusticeForJohhnyDepp

Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages and no punitive damages from the jury.

If the defendant acted with "willful and wanton negligence," an injured person can recover up to $350,000 in punitive damages in Virginia. In contrast, compensatory damage is intended to make the injured person whole.


Nonetheless, many policies do not exclude coverage for punitive damages. In Virginia, courts are more likely to grant punitive damages unless expressly prohibited.

Notably, a jury can consider evidence of the defendant's net worth when deciding how much punitive damage to the award.

Many believe that the defendant's intoxication at the time of the incident is sufficient grounds for punitive damage. However, under Virginia law, this is not the case.

Edited by Srijan Sen


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