Meghan Markle Wins Dismissal in Court Battle Against Half-Sister Samantha

Ian Vogler/Reuters
Ian Vogler/Reuters

Samantha Markle has lost her defamation case against her half-sister, the Duchess of Sussex, after a judge in Florida granted a motion to dismiss.

Samantha lodged her case in March 2022, when she sued Meghan Markle for “defamation and injurious falsehoods” along with “malicious lies” in a number of alleged instances, including during the duchess’s well-publicized sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey alongside husband Harry.

Samantha also claims Meghan’s Florida fanbase “became angry” with her half-sister, claiming a “significant part” of her hometown’s population is unhappy with the elder Markle.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell granted Meghan’s motion to dismiss after Samantha claimed the pair’s relationship “unravelled” as the duchess’s star rose and she eventually met Prince Harry.

Three of the issues Samantha noted in the lawsuit stemmed from Oprah’s 2021 interview, where Meghan claimed that she was “an only child,” that she had only met her half-sister “a handful of times,” and that Samantha had changed her surname to Markle after Meghan started dating Prince Harry so that she “could cash in on her newfound fame.”

“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,” the ruling reads regarding Meghan’s claim to Oprah that she was an “only child.”

“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.’”

The interaction is as follows. Oprah Winfrey: “And Samantha Markle, your half-sister on your father’s side, has written a, a supposedly tell-all book about you. What is… your relationship with her?”

Meghan Markle: “I think it would be very hard to tell all when you don’t know me. And… this is a very different situation than my dad, right? When you talk about betrayal, betrayal comes from someone that you have a relationship with. Right? I don’t feel comfortable talking about people that I really don’t know. But I grew up as an only child, which everyone who grew up around me knows, and I wished I had siblings. I would have loved to have had siblings ….”

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Samantha claimed in her lawsuit that Meghan told Oprah that the pair had only met “a handful of times”—but the court wrote that it could not verify that allegation: “This statement is nowhere to be found in the interview transcript.” The court ultimately denied the claim without prejudice and with leave to amend.

Similarly, Samantha’s claim she changed her surname for fame was dismissed “because it is explicitly contradicted by the transcript,” noting the allegations Samantha noted were not true to what Meghan actually said during the interview: “She changed her last name back to Markle, and I think she’s in her early fifties at that time, only when I started dating Harry. And so I think that says enough.”

The claims were dismissed without prejudice, though Samantha could file an amended complaint within 14 days of the order.

In another instance, Samantha alleges her half-sister “contributed false information” to the authors of the book, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family—specifically mentioning Chapter 12, titled: “A Problem Like Samantha.”

However, the court agreed with Meghan: “Defendant argues that the claims based on Finding Freedom must fail because she did not publish the book,” the ruling reads. “The Court agrees.”

“The Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims related to Finding Freedom are due to be dismissed because (i) a defendant must publish a defamatory statement for it to be actionable and (ii) it is undisputed that Defendant did not publish Finding Freedom.” The claims were dismissed without prejudice.

The court denied Samantha’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs under the anti-SLAPP statute without prejudice, as premature.

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