Duchess of Sussex seeks to avoid trial over Mail on Sunday privacy claim

Victoria Ward
·3 min read
The Duchess of Sussex - Kirsty Wigglesworth /AP
The Duchess of Sussex - Kirsty Wigglesworth /AP

The Duchess of Sussex has applied to have her privacy and copyright claims against the Mail on Sunday decided by a judge now, avoiding the need for a trial. 

Her legal team will on Thursday ask for summary judgment to be handed down in lieu of the trial, which is scheduled to begin in January, arguing that the newspaper has no chance of success.

It is also considering an application to strike out the defence for the privacy aspect of the case.

The application will be heard by Justice Warby at the High Court.

If successful, it would mean the Duchess, 39, would no longer have to give evidence, or face her father, Thomas Markle, in court.

The Duchess is suing Associated Newspapers, owners of the Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail and MailOnline for publication of a story featuring extracts of a "private and confidential" letter she sent her father, Thomas Markle, in 2018.

She claims the article was a breach of privacy and copyright. 

A summary judgment and strike out application can be brought when one party believes it has an overwhelmingly strong case.

The Duchess’s legal team has said it does not believe that the Mail on Sunday’s case has a chance of succeeding and therefore, that there is no “compelling reason” for trial.

“We are confident in our case and therefore believe it should be determined on a summary basis,” a source said.

If the judge rules that some or all of the claims should proceed to a trial then the Duchess will apply to adjourn the case. 

She will also appeal against the ruling that Finding Freedom, a tell-all biography about the Sussexes, can be used as evidence by the newspaper.

The 350-page book was thrust to the heart of the case after its publication in August due to its startling level of detail about the couple’s innermost thoughts and feelings.

The Mail on Sunday successfully argued that it should be allowed to include details from the biography in its defence, suggesting it was proof that the Duchess permitted details of her life to be shared with authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand. 

A source close to the Duchess said the application to adjourn the case was due to the volume of work required now that the biography had been included.

“It is a massive expansion of the case,” the source said.

“The volume of additional evidence, disclosures and research required could not meet the original timetable.”

Francesca Kaye, a Master of the Chancery Division, ruled in September: "Meghan says she had nothing to do with the information in the public domain, including the book, either directly or indirectly.

"She says, 'It was not me and had nothing to do with me', which is a simple case. If it's a house of cards, then it will fall down quickly at trial. But I'm satisfied it is arguable."

The Duchess has denied cooperating with them.