What Happens If Amber Heard Can’t Pay $10.35 Million Damages to Johnny Depp

Millions of dollars are owed after Wednesday’s verdict, when jurors sided mostly with Johnny Depp against ex-wife Amber Heard.

The judge reduced the $15 million awarded to Depp to $10.35 million (based on a Virginia state law that limits punitive damages), and Heard was awarded $2 million in damages in her defamation countersuit. Her attorney Elaine Bredehoft said on Today Thursday morning that Heard’s next step is to appeal the verdict — and confirmed that the actress can “absolutely not” pay the damages amount.

Additionally, Bredehoft mentioned in her closing arguments last week that Heard, 36, had so far paid more than $6 million in legal costs for the trial.

Legal analyst Emily D. Baker tells PEOPLE what could happen if Heard is unable to fulfill those payments.

“It will be up to the parties, but once the judgment is entered on June 24, I wonder if the attorneys will start negotiating that judgment payment,” says Baker. “Ben Chew said in his closing argument that Johnny Depp wasn’t seeking to punish Amber Heard with money. [Chew said on Friday to the jury: The case “has never been about money” or about “punishing” Heard.] I imagine that they will try to settle it and you’ll see a PR statement that they are not seeking to enforce the judgment.”

“If they do want to enforce the judgment,” she continues, “that starts a whole separate process in court, of potentially attaching property, setting up ways it has to be paid. I imagine — and if I’m team Depp, this is what I would do — they’d look at getting an injunction to stop Amber Heard from repeating statements that the jury found were defamatory and then stipulating that the payments won’t be made and there won’t be any judgment outstanding.”

Says Baker, “If he’s not interested in the money, I think he’s more interested in her not repeating these allegations.”

RELATED: Verdict in Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard Defamation Case Is ‘Strange’ and ‘Unexpected,’ Legal Experts Say

Amber Heard waits before the jury said that they believe she defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp, while announcing split verdicts in favor of both her ex-husband Johnny Depp and Heard

Amber Heard waits before the jury said that they believe she defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp, while announcing split verdicts in favor of both her ex-husband Johnny Depp and Heard

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty

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“Getting the judgment is one thing. Getting the money is a whole separate thing,” she says.

If Depp’s side does pursue follow through on the money, they can, according to Baker, attach property and “try to attach her any wages or any residuals coming in and start going after it through the court, but that is a separate process that starts once the judgment is entered and it can be a very lengthy court process to enforce a judgment.”

“From a PR standpoint, it would not be ideal to see Johnny Depp trying to aggressively enforce this judgment,” says Baker. “…We’ll see what they do. I don’t think we’ll see them aggressively pursuing this judgment right away. And I don’t think they necessarily should at this point.”

As Baker explains, filing for bankruptcy wouldn’t necessarily help Heard with the damages payment.

Amber Heard stands with her lawyers Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn before the jury said that they believe she defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp while announcing split verdicts in favor of both her ex-husband Johnny Depp and Heard on their claim and counter-claim in the Depp v.  Heard civil defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse

Amber Heard stands with her lawyers Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn before the jury said that they believe she defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp while announcing split verdicts in favor of both her ex-husband Johnny Depp and Heard on their claim and counter-claim in the Depp v. Heard civil defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty

“Because this is an intentional tort — the willful element of defamation that had to be found because they’re celebrities — takes it out of the possibility of bankruptcy because it was a willful act. So it’s an intentional tort,” she says. “Defamation, and when it’s against a public figure, that willfulness element, that malice element, takes it right out of the ability to be discharged in bankruptcy.”

There’s also Heard’s past charity pledges left hanging in the air. Back in 2016, the actress publicly announced she’d be donating all of her $7 million divorce settlement to charity, half to the American Civil Liberties Union and half to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As Depp’s team proved in court, the actress has yet to fulfill those pledges, which were scheduled to be paid in annual increments. In her testimony her, Heard said she still fully intends on completing the donations.

“I would love him to stop suing me so I can,” Heard, who is mom to 1-year-old daughter Oonagh Paige, said on the witness stand of making good on the promised charitable payments.

Depp’s win in the defamation trial comes 19 months after he lost his UK libel suit back in November 2020. He sued British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” Heard tested to back up the claims, and a London judge upheld the outlet’s claims as being “substantially true.” In March 2021, his attempt his to overturn that decision was overruled.

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