Meghan Markle’s Lawsuit Against Mail on Sunday: What We Know So Far
Since packing up and settling down in Los Angeles, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been thrust into the spotlight again—this time for their lawsuit with publisher Associated Newspapers, which publishes Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, MailOnline and Metro. The Daily Mail is one of the four tabloids that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex cut ties with last week.
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Filed in October last year—around the time when Harry and Meghan released an intimate documentary about their African tour—the lawsuit was filed in response to the publication of a private letter from Meghan to her estranged father Thomas Markle in the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline.
The case saw its first hearing last Friday, with Harry and Meghan tuning in remotely. Here’s what we know so far:
Why Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers
For publishing excerpts of her written letter in five articles—two in Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline—Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers for breach of copyright, infringement of her privacy, and breaches of the Data Protection Act. In a statement by Harry following the lawsuit, he also accused the publisher of selectively editing the letter to “mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year”. According to the couple’s lawyers, any damages won will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.
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How it all started
The publication of Meghan’s private letter was Thomas’ defence against allegations made by Meghan’s close circle of friends in an anonymous interview with People magazine. In the story, five longtime friends of Meghan said about Thomas: “He knows how to get in touch with her… He’s never called; he’s never texted. It’s super painful.”
The 75-year-old retired lighting director has maintained to the press that Meghan had cut him off after marrying into the royal family and that he had no way of reaching her.
In the letter sent to Thomas in August 2018—three months after the royal wedding—the Duchess wrote of the hurt and pain that Thomas had caused her “by making the choice to not tell the truth” and snubbing any attempt from her and Harry to reach out and help.
Thomas denied the accusations, describing the letter as “a dagger to the heart”.
(Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Unveil Their New US-Based Non-Profit, Archewell)
What really happened, according to Harry and Meghan
In new court documents that have surfaced, however, it was revealed that Harry and Meghan had indeed tried to reach out to Thomas and urged him to call them in the days leading to the wedding. In a series of text exchanges between the couple and Thomas that have been submitted to the court, Meghan was seen attempting to reach out to her father after he was exposed for staging photographs with paparazzi.
“I’ve called and texted but haven’t heard back from you so hoping you’re okay,” Meghan wrote. She followed up with a message informing him that she had attempted to arrange logistics and supplies for him and that he should keep a low profile until the wedding.
Harry was also noted to have reached out in multiple messages. One text wrote: “Tom, Harry again! Really need to speak to u (sic). U (sic) do not need to apologise, we understand the circumstances but ‘going public’ will only make the situation worse.
If u (sic) love Meg and want to make it right, please call me as there are two other options which don’t involve u (sic) having to speak to the media, who incidentally created this whole situation. So please call me so I can explain. Meg and I are not angry, we just need to speak to u (sic). Thanks.”
The couple reached out again when news broke that Thomas had been admitted to the hospital with chest pains, with Meghan expressing her concern and offering to send a security team to him. Thomas responded that while he appreciated the offer, he would instead recover at a motel.
However, on May 16, Meghan reportedly received an “unpleasant” message that led her to call her father four times, and Harry to text Thomas for clarification. No further information was shared about the exchanges after.
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During the case’s first hearing on Friday, Meghan’s legal team claimed that the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline had acted with “dishonesty and malicious intent”, “deliberately seeking to dig or stir up issues between [Meghan] and her father”.
According to her lawyer David Sherborne, “she believes there was a pattern of intrusive and offensive articles”. He also clarified that the case was not about “damage to reputation”, but rather “the distress she feels about the realisation that the defendant has an agenda and that this is not a one-off”.
The legal team also claimed that Associated Newspapers had “harassed” Thomas and “finally manipulated this vulnerable man into giving interviews”.
“It is the defendant's actions in stirring up, creating this dispute that they use as justification for publishing the contents of the letter,” said David.
He added that the letter was printed with the “sole and entirely gratuitous purpose of satisfying the curiosity of the defendant's readership about the ... private life of the claimant”.
Associated Newspapers' argument
In response to allegations that the newspaper had “harassed, humiliated, manipulated and exploited” Thomas, Antony White, representing Associated Newspapers, argued that the Duchess had not had direct contact with her father since her wedding.
“In this context it appears that the claimant has seen fit to put these allegations on the record without having spoken to Mr Markle, verifying these allegations with him or obtaining his consent.”
“This is an allegation of seriously improper deliberate, i.e. intentional, conduct to the effect that the defendant’s motive was to seek to manufacture or stoke a family dispute for the sake of having a good story or stories to publish,” Antony said.
He further stated that such “complex tests of mental state” of the publisher are "irrelevant to the claim for misuse of private information", and asked the judge to strike out that allegation.
Responding to Harry’s claim that the newspaper had reported the letter “dishonestly” by cherry-picking excerpts, Antony said, “It is extremely common for the media to summarise or edit documents when reporting current events, and that is not a basis for an allegation of dishonesty”.
The defence also disputed the allegation of breaching Meghan’s copyright and privacy, stating that the existence of the letter was already public knowledge because Meghan’s friends had referred to it in an interview with People.
While the Duchess had denied knowledge of this interview, Associated Newspapers argued that she could not have been unaware of her friends giving such a high-profile interview about her. A decision will have to be made on whether Meghan had “reasonable expectation” that the contents of the letter would be private.
(Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Bid Farewell to Royal Life With Instagram Post)
Following Friday’s preliminary hearing, a decision will be made by High Court judge Justice Warby next week or the week after. A trial may be scheduled for February or March next year, and Thomas, Meghan and her unnamed best friends could be asked to testify.