Johnny Depp 'Has an Uphill Battle' Proving Amber Heard Was Defamatory in Legal Case: Expert

"Winning a defamation case, it has to be based on facts. It can't be based on opinion. And that's where a lot of defamation plaintiffs get in trouble," legal expert Daniel Gutenplan tells PEOPLE

Johnny Depp has a long road ahead of him in his defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard, a legal expert tells PEOPLE.

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post about surviving domestic violence, though she never mentioned Depp by name in the article. Depp originally filed the $50 million lawsuit in March 2019 (the exes married in February 2015 and split the following year).

"In terms of the trial in Virginia right now, I think Johnny Depp has an uphill battle," Daniel Gutenplan, entertainment litigator, defamation expert and a partner at Enenstein Pham & Glass, tells PEOPLE.

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He adds, "Defamation is very hard to prove. First and foremost, truth is an absolute defense to any defamatory statement. So regardless of the alleged defamatory statement, if a defendant can establish that it is true, the defense is going to win."

Amber Heard (L); Johnny Depp. Venturelli/Getty; John Phillips/Getty

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He points out that Heard's essay never name-dropped Depp and "doesn't detail any specific alleged events or any specific conduct. It is incredibly general in that regard."

Gutenplan also says that winning a defamation case "has to be based on facts," adding: "It can't be based on opinion. And that's where a lot of defamation plaintiffs get in trouble."

US actor Johnny Depp looks on at the end of the second day of his testimony during the defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2022. - Depp is suing ex-wife Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. (Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Depp's case is still ongoing despite Heard's previous attempts to get it dismissed, ultimately giving the Pirates of the Caribbean star "his day in court," Gutenplan says, adding, "clearly the some extent thinks there's legs, and at least the jury should decide."

"When we're talking more about defamation, it really does come down to he said, she said, or he said, he said, or she said, she said, whatever it might be, but it's an opinion of two people and the defamation claims are oftentimes not reduced to writing," Gutenplan reiterates.

"And so anytime you get into a courtroom, you get into a legal battle, and it's one story against another — which, by the way, is exactly what's happening in Virginia right now. It's two people telling two very different stories, right? It's tough to prove, and let's not forget that Mr. Depp is the plaintiff and carries the burden of proof to show by a preponderance of the evidence."

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Though he says he is uncertain how long the trial will last, Gutenplan estimates it is expected to go for up to seven weeks, with either side likely to appeal should they lose. It could take months and even years to reach a final resolution, he says.

Gutenplan adds, "It's impossible to say now, because we don't know what necessarily is going to happen."

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