Marcos De Hoyos
Texas Employment Lawyer Marcos De Hoyos

The Depp v. Heard trial had been dominating news outlets for the past month. In it, actor Johnny Depp accused actor, and former spouse, Amber Heard of defaming him when she claimed that Depp had abused her over the course of their relationship. Recently, a verdict in the trial had been reached. In this verdict, the jury unanimously found that Heard could not substantiate her claims against Depp and that she knew that her allegations of abuse were false when she published her essay outlining Depp’s abuse in 2018. The jury concluded that Heard acted with actual malice when writing her essay. The result of this case is largely unusual. The fact of the matter is that it is exceedingly difficult to prevail on defamation claims and it is the goal of this article to examine why that is.

In order to prevail on a defamation claim, a plaintiff must satisfy four different requirements. First, the plaintiff must show a false statement purporting to be a fact. In other words, an incorrect statement that is being asserted as true. Second, the statement must be published or communicated to a third person. Third, the plaintiff must show fault that amounts to at least negligence. Lastly, the plaintiff must show that the false statements caused some harm to the person that resulted in damages.

The Depp v. Heard, trial, however, operated on a different standard due to the fact that both actors are public figures. In The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that in order for a public figure to succeed on defamation claims, the public figure plaintiff must demonstrate that the false statements expressed were made with “actual malice.” In Sullivan, the Court specified that actual malice means that the defendant expressed the false statement with “knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” In other words, the defendant making the defamatory statements had to know that the statements they were making were false or should have known that they were false.

Suppose, for example, that a plaintiff asserts a defamation claim against a defendant. The plaintiff has to prove to the court that the defendant knew, or should have known, that the statements made were false. The defendant has several avenues through which to contest it. The defendant could show that she was making a statement of an opinion due to the fact that the statement made must be factual. For example, “I think X is a fool” would be considered an opinion even if X has an IQ of 132. On the other hand, if the defendant were to say, “I think Y beats her children,” and this results in Y losing her job, then the plaintiff could very well succeed on a defamation claim given that that the defendant made this statement recklessly and that it resulted in damages to the plaintiff. 

The defendant could also make a showing that, even if her statements were false or factual, she believed them to be true. The defendant could simply claim that the statement was made due to a certain source that she cited or even researched. That could very well be enough to defeat a defamation claim. Alternatively, the false statement could have stemmed from word-of-mouth; perhaps an individual the defendant worked with communicated the statement to the defendant and the defendant believed it.

There are a several means through which one may defeat a defamation claim. Defamation is exceedingly difficult to show because the plaintiff, in a sense, has to show the court the defendant’s state of mind. As such, the Depp v. Heard verdict is an outlier, not the norm. If an individual believes that they have been defamed, then it is preferable to base that belief on research rather than on a blockbuster.

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We asked Marcos D. De Hoyos, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Mr.

We asked Marcos D. De Hoyos, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Mr. De Hoyos brings.

  1. Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

It’s fulfilling work. Employment law is one of the few areas of law where you can actually make a difference and an impact in the lives of people. One of the most rewarding feelings is knowing that the work I do each day has a meaningful impact in the community.

  1. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr.

  1. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The lawyer. The client could have a stellar case, but without a good lawyer, that case isn’t going anywhere. You need a passionate, active, and knowledgeable lawyer to make the right decisions and ensure that the case, regardless of how viable it is, gets the shot it deserves.

  1. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

While in college, I was a barista at a small, local coffeeshop, so while I argue your case, I can also make you a killer shot of espresso to boot.

  1. What skills do you value as an employment attorney?

The ability to adapt. As a lawyer, you’re constantly faced with situations that you didn’t expect or anticipate, and you have to learn to adapt to the situation as it unfolds. Persuasiveness and attentiveness are also a few skills I think are important to being successful in law.

  1. If you were not practicing labor and employment law what would you be?

In another life, I would most likely be an English or Philosophy professor.

  1. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I did not have the privilege of growing up in a family of lawyers. I was the only person in my family to earn a law degree, and I had to learn the law tooth and nail. I understand how complicated and daunting the law can be to someone who hasn’t studied it, so along with providing advocacy, I also like to make sure that clients understand the law, so that they aren’t left tackling their problems in the dark.

  1. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

You can usually find me reading fiction or philosophy at the local coffee shop, going for a hike or run, or touring one of the many museums or art galleries in town.

  1. What’s your favorite legal TV show

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

  1. Who do you most admire as a lawyer?

The client. Taking on big companies and corporations is daunting, especially when you haven’t studied law. It takes courage to take a stand and to fight for what you are owed. I really admire that about my clients. They know going in that it’s going to be tough, but they choose to fight anyway, and that takes guts.

Marcos D. De Hoyos is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Philosophy with a Minor in English. Mr. De Hoyos went on and received his law degree from Vanderbilt University.