Defamation lawsuit against Meghan Markle by half-sister dismissed by judge

By Thomson Reuters Mar 12, 2024 | 4:56 PM

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Florida on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Meghan Markle, the wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, rejecting claims that the actress had made “disparaging, hurtful and false” claims about her half-sister.

Markle’s half-sister Samantha, with whom she shares a father, had alleged that Markle’s statements in a Netflix documentary series and a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey had implied Samantha was a “deceptive fame-seeking imposter with avaricious intentions.”

The lawsuit specifically took issue with Markle’s remarks that she and Samantha had not been close growing up, and that Samantha had changed her surname back to Markle when the royal couple first started dating.

U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell of Florida’s Middle District found in her ruling on Tuesday that the statements in question were either opinions, substantially true, or did not plausibly defame Samantha.

Meghan Markle and Harry, King Charles’ younger son, are known as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. They and their two children have lived in California since the couple stepped down from royal duties in 2020.

Their widely publicized split from the rest of Britain’s royal family has been worldwide tabloid fodder for years, and prompted the British government to strip Harry of automatic police protection when he was in Britain.

In the 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey cited in Samantha Markle’s complaint, the couple accused the royal family of racism, neglect, and internal feuds. Asked by Winfrey about a “supposedly tell-all book” her half-sister had authored about her, Markle replied that it would be “very hard to tell all when you don’t know me.”

Their appearance with Winfrey was viewed by 49 million people around the world, according to U.S. network CBS. It caused their popularity to plummet within Britain and triggered the 1,000-year-old monarchy’s biggest crisis of the century.

(Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Bill Berkrot)