The High Court in London may rule on Meghan's request to have her privacy case against Associated Newspapers settled without a full trial

By Phil Boucher and Simon Perry
February 10, 2021 01:26 PM
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Meghan Markle
| Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Meghan Markle could soon find out if she might one day face her dad across a London courtroom.

Meghan, 39, is suing the Mail on Sunday's publishers Associated Newspapers for invasion of privacy, infringement of data protection rights and copyright infringement for printing extracts of what her lawyers describe as a "private and confidential" letter sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018 — three months after her wedding to Prince Harry.

On Jan. 19, Meghan applied to have the case decided by a summary judgment – a legal step which would see her claim resolved by a judge's ruling as opposed to a full trial – during a remote hearing at the High Court in London, where a previously unpublished line from the five-page letter she sent her father was read aloud: "I ask for nothing other than peace and I wish the same for you."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
| Credit: Rosa Woods - Pool/Getty Images

On Thursday afternoon in London, the Duchess of Sussex may find out if her application has been successful.

Should Judge Justice Warby rule in Meghan's favor, then the outcome of the case will hinge on his private legal deliberations, meaning that her friends, family, and former Kensington Palace staff will not have to testify in court.

If the application fails, then the exact opposite happens – opening up the possibility that Meghan may find herself sitting in London's High Court opposite her father, Thomas Markle, in the fall of 2021.

The case was originally slated to begin on Jan. 11, but it was pushed back after Meghan successfully bid to have the proceedings delayed. Last October, Justice Warby stated that his ruling was based on "confidential grounds" submitted by Meghan's legal team during a closed hearing.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
| Credit: Ben STANSALL - WPA Pool/Getty

To further complicate matters, the exact nature of Justice Warby's Thursday ruling is currently a closely guarded secret. Theoretically, he could decide to go one step further and rule on certain elements of the case. Alternatively, he could simply decide to postpone his ruling on the summary judgement to a later date.

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The announcement is the latest stage in Meghan's case against Associated Newspapers, which first began in September 2019.

Meghan and harry appear on the time 100 special on ABC
| Credit: ABC

During the summary judgment hearing in January, Meghan's attorney, Justin Rushbrooke, argued that Meghan's letter to her father was "intrinsically private, personal and sensitive" and that printing extracts of the letter constituted "a triple-barrelled invasion of her privacy rights."

It was "a heartfelt plea from an anguished daughter to her father," Rushbrooke added.

In response, Antony White, representing Associated Newspapers, described Meghan's litigation as "wholly unsuitable for summary judgment" in a written submission.

White added that there were a number of "significant factual matters" which needed to be investigated at trial "in relation to the circumstances in which the letter was written and the extent to which she (Meghan) had disclosed information about the letter with a view to publication."

"There are now on the record a number of inconsistent statements made by her that she will need to explain," he continued.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the Mountbatten Music Festival in March 2020

On Feb. 1, Meghan's husband, Prince Harry, received "substantial damages" from Associated Newspapers over claims that he "turned his back" on the British Armed Forces after stepping away from front-line royal duties in March 2020.

A remote hearing at the High Court in London heard that Associated Newspapers accepted the claims made in two "almost identical" articles published in October 2020 were "false."

"Today, The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline publicly admitted in open court that they pushed a completely false and defamatory story," a spokesman for the Duke of Sussex said in a statement. "They've apologised for questioning The Duke of Sussex's commitment to the Royal Marines and British Armed Forces. The truth is that The Duke's commitment to the military community is unquestionable."

Harry intends to donate the damages — the amount of which is undisclosed — to his Invictus Games Foundation for wounded warriors.