Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, on Friday filed a motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit brought against her by her half-sister Samantha Markle, describing the case as “without merit” and based on allegations that are “demonstrably false.” The duchess also asked a Florida federal court to order her half-sister to cover attorneys’ fees.
In the complaint filed March 3, Samantha Markle, 57, alleged that Meghan “published and disseminated false and malicious lies designed to destroy [her] reputation” and expose her to “humiliation, shame and hatred on a worldwide scale” in order to paint a false narrative of her childhood. Markle is suing the duchess for damages in excess of $75,000, claiming harm to her reputation as well as lost employment and lost income from the sale of her autobiography The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister.
“We feel confident that we’ll survive a motion to dismiss based on the allegations and the specific falsities that were made by [the duchess]," Markle's attorney Jamie Sasson told BuzzFeed News Friday.
Although Samantha Markle claims that her half-sister made three defamatory statements during Meghan’s March 2021 blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey, the bulk of the case concerns information reported in a 2020 biography of Meghan and her husband Prince Harry titled Finding Freedom.
Finding Freedom, written by reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, is a flattering biography of Meghan and Harry that is regularly referred to as a “hagiography” by the UK press. Although the duke and duchess said in a sworn statement to a UK court that they had not coordinated with the authors, it later emerged that in 2018 they had instructed their then–communications secretary Jason Knauf to share specific information with Scobie and Durand in a background meeting. Evidence of this was shown in emails between Knauf and Meghan and Harry were made public as part of a copyright and privacy lawsuit the duchess filed against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday.
Following the publication of the emails, Meghan formally apologized to the court for previously stating that she had not had any involvement with the book. Samanatha Markle’s lawsuit accuses Meghan of making defamatory statements in a background briefing email to Knauf and also claims that the duchess is responsible for what Markle describes as defamatory statements published in the biography itself.
In total, Markle’s lawsuit lists 17 allegedly defamatory statements: seven that were made in Meghan’s email to Knauf, seven that were made in Finding Freedom, and three that were made during the Oprah interview.
In the motion to dismiss filed Friday, Meghan’s lawyers denied all of Markle’s allegations — and stated that even if they were true, the duchess's half-sister would still have no case: first, because the statements that Meghan made about Markle in her 2018 briefing email to Knauf were made outside of Florida’s two-year statute of limitations for defamation; second, because Meghan didn’t write Finding Freedom; and finally, because Meghan’s statements about her half-sister in the email and in the Oprah interview are substantially true — and protected by the First Amendment. The filing included an itemized list of responses to all 17 of the statements that Samantha Markle claimed were defamatory.
The motion’s request that Markle be compelled to pay Meghan’s legal fees is based on a Florida law that prohibits lawsuits filed against individuals who are exercising their right to free speech in connection with public issues.
The motion to dismiss can be read in full here.
BuzzFeed News previously reported that Samantha Markle’s original lawyer Douglas Kahle filed to withdraw as counsel, citing “irreconcilable differences and fundamental disagreements regarding various aspects of this case and the strategy moving forward."
Samantha Markle's new legal firm, the Ticktin Law Group, is currently representing former US president Donald Trump in a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee over the 2016 election.