Duchess of Sussex loses battle to avoid giving evidence in half-sister's court case

A Florida judge denied Meghan’s application to halt the discovery process - WireImage
A Florida judge denied Meghan’s application to halt the discovery process - WireImage

The Duchess of Sussex has lost a legal bid to avoid giving evidence in a defamation claim brought by her half-sister.

A Florida judge denied Meghan’s application to halt the discovery process pending a motion to have the case dismissed.

It means that both the Duchess and Prince Harry will be forced to give filmed depositions, under oath, if the case moves ahead.

Samantha Markle, elder daughter of Thomas Markle, the Duchess’s father, is seeking $75,000 (£57,000) in damages over claims made by the Sussexes’ in their March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey and in the 2020 biography Finding Freedom, which she has alleged subjected her to “humiliation, shame and hatred on a worldwide scale”.

She has accused Meghan of telling “false and malicious lies” about her fairytale “rags-to royalty” upbringing at her family’s expense and has contested her half-sister’s claim that she “grew up as an only child”.

Miss Markle has formally requested that both the Duke and the Duchess give depositions.

She has also asked the Duchess to make 38 separate admissions, ranging from the acknowledgement that Miss Markle regularly drove her to school and took her on shopping trips to the local mall to a declaration that neither Queen Elizabeth II nor the King were racist.

Not met ‘high standard’ required

Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell ruled that the Duchess had not met the “high standard” required to stay discovery but agreed to push back the deadline for submitting depositions from later this month until July.

However, she did suggest that Meghan’s attempt to have the case thrown out might have some merit.

She said: “Defendant Markle does not show that unusual circumstances justify the requested stay, or that prejudice or an undue burden will result if the Court does not impose a stay.

“Although a preliminary peek at the motion to dismiss suggests that some of the claims against her may be ripe for dismissal, the review does not reveal, at this time, a clear indication that the court will dismiss the action in its entirety.”

The Duchess’s California-based legal team has so far declined to provide any evidence, branding the various requests from Miss Markle “irrelevant”, “vague” and “speculative”.

It has argued that most of the statements at issue are not actionable given that Meghan did not make them, and that those she did make were simply opinions, which were “substantially true in any event.“