Samantha Markle’s defamation lawsuit against her half-sister, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has been thrown out.
The former “Suits” actress was being sued by her estranged sibling over the “malicious lies” she alleged were told about her during an interview Meghan and her husband Prince Harry gave to Oprah Winfrey in 2021 after stepping down from royal duties the year before, and comments made about her in the couple’s biography “Finding Freedom”, but a judge in Florida dismissed the case on Thursday.
US District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell ruled Meghan’s statements were simply opinion and “not capable of being proved false”.
Markle had objected to Meghan telling Oprah that she “grew up as an only child” and hadn’t grown up with her half-siblings, with the author insisting they used to have a “wonderful relationship” and she had “regularly driven” her father’s other daughter to school and “helped with her homework”.
But the judge ruled as no reasonable viewer would believe the duchess was suggesting she had no half-siblings or wasn’t related to Markle, her statements could not constitute defamation because they were just descriptions of her subjective experience.
The judge wrote in an order obtained by The Daily Beast: “A reasonable listener would not think that Defendant was suggesting that she has no half-siblings, that Plaintiff does not actually exist, or that Plaintiff is not related to her.
“As a reasonable listener would understand it, Defendant merely expresses an opinion about her childhood and her relationship with her half-siblings. Thus, the Court finds that Defendant’s statement is not objectively verifiable or subject to empirical proof … Because the statement is not ‘capable of being proved false, it is protected from a defamation action.’ “
Markle had also complained about statements made in “Finding Freedom” – which was written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand – that claimed the half-siblings had barely known one another growing up, she had “never been close” to Meghan, and had been “handsomely paid” for an unflattering newspaper story.
But the judge said Meghan couldn’t be held liable for the contents of the book because she didn’t publish it.
She wrote: “Defendant argues that the claims based on ‘Finding Freedom’ must fail because she did not publish the book. The Court agrees.
“The Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims related to ‘Finding Freedom’ are due to be dismissed because (1) a defendant must publish a defamatory statement for it to be actionable and (2) it is undisputed that Defendant did not publish ‘Finding Freedom’.”
The claims were dismissed without prejudice, but Markle could file an amended complaint within 14 days of the order.