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Meghan Markle received the princely sum of £1 ($1.35) in damages from the publishers of the Daily Mail and the Mail Online in a settlement for her privacy action against them, after they published a handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father.
The retired star libel lawyer David Hooper, however, told The Daily Beast that it would be a mistake to read the paltry amount of the award against Meghan as indicative of any weakness in her case, which she won definitively.
He said the much more important fact was that Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) had agreed to cover a substantial portion of Meghan’s legal costs, meaning she had not only proved her point of principle—something Meghan has always said was far more important to her than the money—but also “inflicted significant financial damage” on the publishers.
He said it was likely that if Meghan had wanted to secure a larger amount of money, she would have been involved in further legal wrangling, with ANL possibly demanding she prove what damage she had suffered.
By accepting a token amount, the matter was now closed without further negotiations.
The trifling sum paid out was set out in court documents first reported by The Guardian.
The publisher has also agreed to pay a confidential sum in damages for copyright infringement. Her spokesperson described this payment as substantial and said it will be donated to charity.
The settlement marks the formal end of Meghan’s three-year battle against ANL. Meghan won a summary judgment against the publishers, which meant she never had to face a full trial. ANL failed to get this unilateral decision of the judge overturned on appeal.
Hooper told The Daily Beast: “Accepting the £1 will likely have avoided a tremendous argument about the extent of the damage she suffered. She just wanted to establish a principle and get her legal costs paid, although she may well still be a half a million pounds out of pocket as a result of this process.
“They would say it was about the principle of the thing, but if they hoped that because of this the Mail will not write about them any more, they are in cloud cuckoo land.
“They’ve inflicted a financial loss on the Mail, but it is a company with deep pockets. Obviously the Mail would have preferred to win, but Meghan did nothing for her reputation by her memory lapse over some of the evidence.”
The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline were ordered to carry prominent front-page statements that they had lost the legal case as part of the settlement. The outlets pushed these out on Christmas Day.
In a statement after her court victory, Meghan Markle criticized the “harmful practices” of tabloids as “a daily fail that divide us.”
“This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right,” she said.
The duchess called on people to be “collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create.”
She accused ANL of dragging the trial out and attempting to “twist facts and manipulate the public [even during the appeal itself], making a straightforward case extraordinarily convoluted in order to generate more headlines and sell more newspapers—a model that rewards chaos above truth.”
She added: “As far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you. These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon—they are a daily fail that divide us, and we all deserve better.”