October 30, 2012 12:10pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Johnny Depp Facing Punitive Damages in Lawsuit Over Hollywood Palladium Altercation
A judge is allowing the woman who was allegedly roughed up by security guards of Johnny Depp to pursue punitive damages against the actor.
Robin Eckert, an assistant clinical professor at University of California Irvine School of Medicine, sued Depp and Live Nation anonymously in April, claiming an altercation at an Iggy and the Stooges concert in December at the Hollywood Palladium left her injured.
According to the complaint, she was dragged across the VIP section, and as her shoes came off and her clothes were disheveled, she was handcuffed and dragged through the venue, "exposing her buttocks to the other Hollywood Palladium theater patrons."
In August, judge Michael Johnson ordered that she would have to identify herself before proceeding and dismissed several causes of action including negligent infliction of emotional distress and employment claims related to the hiring of the security guards in question.
At the time, the judge also denied Eckert punitive damages but let her amend her lawsuit, which she did. But after a hearing on a demurrer on Monday, the judge has ruled that Eckert has alleged sufficient facts to support a claim of punitive damages.
According to a tentative decision in advance of the hearing today, "As alleged, Plaintiff did nothing to warrant the conduct of Depp’s security guards who were controlled by the defendants, which must be taken as true at the pleading stage."
Johnson goes onto say that Depp's attorneys argue that security only intended to restrain her and keep her separated from Depp so as to protect him from a “potential out-of-control fan,” but at this stage of the case, those alleged facts can't be considered.
If the case gets to trial, Eckert will only be able to recover punitive damages in her assault and battery case if she can prove intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
It wasn't a complete victory for Eckert.
The judge has dismissed the possibility that Eckert can recover attorney's fees because there aren't any allegations that any of the defendants have been convicted of a felony. Since the judge has already denied a motion on attorney's fees, he says it is a closed issue and won't be considered in any amended complaint.
"The ruling only relates to a motion to strike the allegation," says Marty Singer, Depp's attorney. "There was no finding that she is entitled to punitive damages. This is a ridiculous suit against our client. After we prevail, we intend to pursue claims against the attorneys and the plaintiff for malicious prosecution."
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