Duchess of Sussex wins US court case against half sister Samantha Markle

A US court has dismissed a defamation case brought against the Duchess of Sussex by her half-sister - Max Mumby /Getty Images
A US court has dismissed a defamation case brought against the Duchess of Sussex by her half-sister - Max Mumby /Getty Images

The Duchess of Sussex has won a court battle against her estranged half sister after a Florida judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit.

Samantha Markle, 58, elder daughter of Thomas Markle, the Duchess's father, had sought unspecified damages over claims made by Meghan in her March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

She accused the Duchess of telling "false and malicious lies" about her fairytale "rags-to royalty" upbringing and contested her claim that she "grew up as an only child".

Ms Markle claimed that Meghan, 41, had portrayed her as a “disgusting opportunist” and that her comments had subjected her to “ridicule, contempt and disgrace", causing her great harm.

She also claimed that statements made in Finding Freedom, a biography of the Sussexes written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, were defamatory.

However, the Duchess’s legal team successfully argued that the case should be thrown out, arguing that she did not deny having a half sister and that her opinions and recollections of growing up were not “proper subject matter” for litigation in court.

Finding Freedom, they argued, was not written by the Duchess so could not form part of the claim.

US District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell agreed.

Harry and Meghan - Samir Hussein/WireImage
Harry and Meghan - Samir Hussein/WireImage

She dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Meghan’s statements were simply an expression of opinion and were therefore “not capable of being proved false”.

She said: "As a reasonable listener would understand it, Defendant merely expresses an opinion about her childhood and her relationship with her half-siblings.

"Thus, the court finds that Defendant’s statement is not objectively verifiable or subject to empirical proof.... Plaintiff cannot plausibly disprove Defendant’s opinion of her own childhood."

She said the claim that Meghan told Ms Winfrey she had only met her half-sister  “a handful of times” was “nowhere to be found in the interview transcript.”

Similarly, the allegation that Ms Markle had only changed her surname to Markle after the Duchess started dating Prince Harry in order to “cash in on her newfound fame” was found to be “explicitly contradicted” by the transcript.

The judge added: “Defendant argues that the claims based on Finding Freedom must fail because she did not publish the book.

“The Court agrees… a defendant must publish a defamatory statement for it to be actionable.”