LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Los Angeles judge handed actor Johnny Depp an important victory – and sent ripples through the entertainment industry – Tuesday, finding an agreement between the actor and his ex-attorney may be voided due to a lack of a written contract.
Depp sued his ex-attorney Jacob Bloom for $30 million this past October, accusing the lawyer of self-dealing and misconduct that enriched him, his law firm and other business partners at Depp’s expense. In his lawsuit, Depp said Bloom collected millions in contingent fees without a prescribed written contract in violation of California law.
In 1999, Bloom and his law firm, Bloom Hergott Diemer, took on Depp as a client. According to his lawsuit, Depp says there was never a contract that formally began that legal relationship.
Depp details several business decisions made on his behalf that he says illegally benefitted Bloom and other business partners, including a $12.5 million hard-money loan taken out in Depp’s name, which was later increased to $19 million.
The terms and conditions were not disclosed and Depp says the loan was structured to be paid back out of earnings from six movies, including four of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” and 2014’s “Into the Woods.”
But Depp says that over a three-year period since that loan was initiated he should have received $32 million in residuals from the films and says $9 million went to tax liabilities, with a balance being paid to Bloom, the business partners and the lender.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Terry Green said during a summary judgment hearing that because Bloom’s law firm acknowledged having no written contract and collected contingency fees, it violated California law.
The statute in question mandates an attorney to present a copy of a contract to the client if contingency fees will be collected.
Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman with the Endeavor Group said in a phone interview that under the law, the arrangement between Depp and Bloom is voidable and that will be the basis of their case moving forward.
Waldman also said Tuesday’s decision will have an impact throughout the entertainment industry.
“The broader implications of the ruling are significant,” said Waldman. “There was never a case before that said that with the (statute) that there is no entertainment lawyer exception.”
Waldman said every entertainer that has been represented for decades without a written contract is entitled to void their contracts.
In court filings, Bloom said Depp ratified the fee arrangement by accepting his firm’s representation.
An email to Bloom’s attorney, Oakland-based Peterson Martin Reynolds, was not answered by press time.
In January 2017, Depp sued his former business managers The Mandel Company for $50 million on similar claims, including gross mismanagement and fraud. The parties settled in July and the terms were not disclosed.