Actor Johnny Depp has scored a significant legal victory, as an LA Superior Court judge ruled that his contract with his lawyer should have been in writing.
Depp is seeking to recoup tens of millions of dollars in legal fees paid out to Jake Bloom over 18 years.
The ruling on Tuesday could also have profound effects on legal dealings in Hollywood, where agreements are often based on a handshake rather than a written contract.
Bloom was paid based on a percentage of the actor's earnings. The relationship fell apart in 2017, as Depp was also fighting a legal war with the Management Group, his former management company.
Depp sued Bloom in October, arguing that the fee arrangement was effectively done on a contingency basis, which under California law must be in writing. Bloom countersued, arguing that Depp had failed to fully pay his legal bills and had violated the unwritten agreement. Bloom's lawyers argued that the agreement was not a contingency arrangement, but Judge Terry Green disagreed.
"There's not a special rule for entertainment people," Green said Tuesday. "Why isn't it in writing? Why not have something that memorialises the agreement so we don't end up in court fighting like this?"
Lawyers for both sides declined to comment outside court. The case is set for a trial on May 6, and Bloom's lawyers may seek to appeal the judge's ruling.
Australian Associated Press