Meghan Markle loses first round in legal fight against British tabloid

Meghan Markle has lost the first round of her legal battle against a British tabloid after it published her emotional letter to her estranged father.

The 38-year-old Duchess of Sussex is suing the Mail on Sunday for breach of privacy, but on Friday, a judge at London’s High Court ruled that allegations the newspaper caused the rift between her and her father, Thomas Markle, 75, should be removed from the case.

Justice Mark Warby agreed to strike out allegations that the Mail on Sunday’s publisher, Associated Newspapers, acted “dishonestly” by leaving out certain passages of the letter.

The Post is told that Markle claims that the newspaper “cherry-picked” parts of the letter to “manipulate” readers.

Claims that Associated Newspaper had an “agenda” of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about her were also thrown out.

The legal battle is over an article that reproduced parts of a handwritten note that Markle sent to her dad in August 2018, three months after he was unable to walk her down the aisle at her wedding to Prince Harry following a heart attack.

The former “Suits” actress claims her father’s decision to make the letter public in February 2019 — days after he says he was “vilified” by five of her closest friends in People magazine — had breached her privacy, copyright and data protection rights. Associated Newspapers wholly denies the claims.

However, Justice Warby said those allegations should not form part of Markle’s case at this stage, because they were “irrelevant” to her claim for misuse of private information, copyright infringement, and breach of the Data Protection Act.

“Some are struck out on the further or alternative ground that they are inadequately detailed,” Justice Warby said, adding he was attempting to confine the case to what is “reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties”.

“I do not consider that the allegations struck out on that basis 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 2018.”

However, he said those parts of her case may be revived at a later stage if they are put on a proper legal basis.

Markle has outright denied telling her — as yet unknown — friends to leak the contents of the letter to People magazine. But they may now be called to give evidence in court as Thomas Markle said he only gave his letter to the Mail on Sunday after it was reported on in People.

If the case goes to trial, it is possible the five friends could be asked to testify under oath about Meghan’s claims. They have never been named, with People referring to them in the article as “Meghan’s inner circle — a longtime friend, a former co-star, a friend from LA, a onetime colleague and a close confidante.”

In a statement issued after the ruling, a spokesperson for Markle’s law firm, Schillings, said the core elements of her case still stood firm.

“Today’s ruling makes very clear that the core elements of this case do not change and will continue to move forward,” the spokesperson said. “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.”

Associated Newspapers will now ask the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to pay their costs of in excess of £50,000 ($63,000) after the couple refused an offer to deal with the issue out of court in order to save the High Court having to set up an online hearing during the coronavirus pandemic.

No trial date has yet been set. The Post is also told that Markle has already made clear that damages over and above legal costs will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.