Meghan Markle has emerged victorious from the defamation lawsuit brought against her by her half-sister.
Samantha Markle, who shares father Thomas Markle, Jr., with Meghan Markle — known as the Duchess of Sussex since her 2018 wedding to Prince Harry — sued her half-sister in March of 2022, accusing her of spreading “false and malicious” information in a best-selling biography and in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey.
She alleges that her royal half-sibling made “false and defamatory statements” that “not only caused harm to Mrs. Markle financially in her professional occupation as a mental health counselor, but also subjected her to incomprehensible amounts of public scrutiny causing her mental health and well-being to deteriorate.”
Over the course of the litigation, Samantha Markle had also accused her half-sister of “stonewalling” and withholding evidence.
On Thursday, a federal judge in Florida dismissed the case.
U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell found that Samantha Markle’s claims about the statements in the book “Finding Freedom” failed to satisfy a key element of a defamation claim: that the defendant published them.
“[I]t is undisputed that Defendant did not publish ‘Finding Freedom,'” Honeywell wrote, noting that the book was marketed as an “unauthorized” biography and published without Meghan Markle’s participation. Samantha Markle had argued that her half-sister “was the one responsible” for the statements made in ‘Finding Freedom,’ alleging that Meghan Markle gave defamatory information to her communications team, who then passed it along to the authors of the book.
“[T]hat is not the same as claiming that Defendant published the book,” the judge wrote, adding that Samantha Markle’s “claims as to the statements in ‘Finding Freedom’ will be dismissed because she fails to allege that Defendant published them.”
Honeywell, a Barack Obama appointee, dismissed Samantha Markle’s claim about the statements in the book with prejudice, meaning that she cannot re-file the allegation.
“[T]he defects in Plaintiff’s claims regarding ‘Finding Freedom’ cannot be cured through amendment,” Honeywell wrote. “Defendant did not publish the book and Plaintiff cannot plausibly state a claim for defamation based on it.”
Samantha Markle also alleged that statements her half-sister made in her interview with Oprah Winfrey were defamatory. Samantha Markle specifically alleged that Meghan Markle’s statements that she “grew up as an only child,” that they hadn’t seen each other in decades, and that Samantha Markle changed her last name to match her half-sister’s once she started dating the then-prince were defamatory.
Honeywell disagreed, finding that Meghan Markle’s first statement amounted to opinion, which cannot be the basis of a valid defamation claim. She also found that the allegations, as pleaded, based on the second two statements were paraphrased in such a way that they changed the meaning of Meghan Markle’s statements.
Honeywell dismissed all three claims about the interview without prejudice, however, giving Samantha Markle 14 days to potentially amend and re-file those claims — although Honeywell issued that ruling with a note of skepticism.
“Although the Court questions Plaintiff’s ability to state a claim for relief based on this statement, Plaintiff will be given one final opportunity to replead it if she so chooses,” the judge wrote.
Honeywell also dismissed Samantha Markle’s injurious falsehood claim without prejudice, finding that if an amended complaint withstood a motion to dismiss, the injurious falsehood claim could potentially have merit.
The judge opted to hold off on ruling on Meghan Markle’s anti-SLAPP motion and request for attorneys’ fees until it was determined whether Samantha Markle would file an amended complaint.
Lawyers for both parties did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]