Meghan Markle has lost the opening skirmish in her courtroom battle with Associated Newspapers, the publishers of the Mail on Sunday.
Meghan is suing the paper for breach of copyright, invasion of privacy, and contravention of her data rights after it published extracts of a letter she had written to her father.
Associated Newspapers has now succeeded in having struck out three allegations made by Meghan in her initial filing.
Meghan had claimed that the Mail “acted dishonestly and in bad faith,” that the Mail “deliberately dug up or stirred up conflict between Meghan and her father,” and that Meghan was distressed by the Mail’s “obvious agenda of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about [her] intended to portray her in a false and damaging light.”
However, in a judgment handed down Friday, the judge said he would allow Associated’s motion that the allegations be struck out because they were either “irrelevant in law, or inadequately particularized, or that it would be disproportionate to litigate the issues raised.”
One glimmer of hope for Meghan was that the judge said the allegations may be revived at a later stage if they are put on a proper legal basis.
Meghan’s camp immediately made clear that while she would not appeal the ruling, she would also not be deterred from continuing with the case.
In court last week, Associated Newspapers’ legal representative admitted that a ruling in their favor on striking out these items would not affect Meghan’s ability “to get home” on the entire case, meaning that she can still win the war despite losing this battle.
The judge summarized his decision as follows: “I do not consider the allegations in question go to the ‘heart’ of the case, which at its core concerns the publication of five articles disclosing the words of, and information drawn from, the letter written by the claimant to her father in August in 2018.”
Meghan’s legal team at London’s Schillings law firm said, “Today’s ruling makes very clear that the core elements of this case do not change and will continue to move forward. The Duchess’ rights were violated; the legal boundaries around privacy were crossed. As part of this process, the extremes to which the Mail on Sunday used distortive, manipulative, and dishonest tactics to target the Duchess of Sussex have been put on full display.
“Whilst the Judge recognizes that there is a claim for breach of privacy and copyright, we are surprised to see that his ruling suggests that dishonest behavior is not relevant. We feel honesty and integrity are at the core of what matters; or as it relates to the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers, their lack thereof. Nonetheless, we respect the Judge’s decision.”
Mark Stephens, a media lawyer and partner at legal firm Howard Kennedy, told The Daily Beast, “[The ruling] shows the wide-ranging strategy her lawyers have pursued of alleging the newspaper waged a campaign against her was misguided. There is no way of salvaging this and saying it was a score draw. It’s an appalling day for Meghan.”