Meghan Markle’s half-sister Samantha has claimed the Duchess of Sussex defamed her in order to ‘cover up’ her ‘false rags to riches’ narrative.
The elder Markle, 58, appeared with her lawyer Wednesday in a virtual court hearing on her defamation case against her sibling.
Her attorney claimed Meghan ‘got caught’ and resorted to publicly ‘putting her sister down’ because she threatened to expose her.
Lawyers for Meghan, who were also present on the call, slammed the claims as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘offensive’ to the former Suits star and demanded the case be dismissed over its ‘fatal defects.’
Meghan had previously filed a motion to stop depositions being taken but was denied by a judge earlier this month
Samantha, who is based in Florida, claims her younger half-sister defamed her when the former royals sat down for a televised interview with Oprah in 2021
Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell said she would issue her judgement later but admitted she was ‘really struggling’ to see how Meghan published the statements at issue, a requirement for them to be defamatory.
Samantha launched the lawsuit last year seeking $75,000 in damages over Meghan and Prince Harry’s claims in their 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey and their 2020 biography Finding Freedom.
According to Samantha, the allegations subjected her to ‘humiliation, shame and hatred on a worldwide scale.’
The hearing was conducted remotely via Zoom, where Samantha appeared wearing a blue blouse from what seemed to be her home.
She initially appeared relaxed and was seen smiling on video and talking to somebody off camera but then turned her camera off during the hearing.
Samantha’s lawyer Peter Ticktin told the court that Finding Freedom was ‘used by the Duchess to affirm this false narrative that she supposedly lived this rags to riches thing.’
He said: ‘She got caught. She was lying about her education, that she was getting all these scholarships. Her father paid for her education for goodness sakes, and she got caught with this lie.
‘Why else is she putting her sister down? Why else is she putting her father down?
‘Why else is she denying her family who has done nothing but good to her all her life? She never had a problem with them at all.
‘She’s denying them to cover up that she made up this narrative that she went from rags to riches which is nonsense, probably not even realizing the harm she would do to her sister.
‘Probably never realizing this would put an innocent person into the fray where all of a sudden she has hundreds of threats on her life coming at her, a stalker she had to deal with,’ Ticktin added.
Samantha and Meghan’s relationship has been strained for years but exploded into public view after Meghan and Harry’s engagement was announced in 2017. Pictured together in 2008
Meghan’s lawyer Michael Kump fired back saying 90 per cent of Ticktin’s comments were ‘inappropriate’ and were ‘quite frankly offensive to my client.’
In his opening remarks Kump said: ‘I’m reminded of the old saying: ‘Don’t make a federal case out of it’.
‘Not every perceived slight ought to be litigated and that’s true here. Plaintiff is taking issue with Meghan’s own impressions of her own childhood growing up but that’s not a proper subject matter for a court of law.
‘The statements at issue here are not defamatory as a matter of law….the right to voice opinions and even criticize are guaranteed by the first amendment.
‘Courts have held pretrial dismissal is necessary in defamation cases because of the chilling effect these cases have on first amendment rights’.
Kump said that the first seven of the 10 statements cited by Samantha as defamatory were from Finding Freedom and should be excluded because Meghan did not write the book or publish it.
He said: ‘The law in Florida is clear – publication requires that the defendant made or published the false statement’.
Kump said that when Meghan’s comments from the Oprah interview are taken in context they were not defamatory.
The allegation that Meghan said she was an ‘only child’ was not the whole story, Kump said.
According to the transcript, Oprah asked Meghan about Samantha, her half sister on her father’s side.
Kump said: ‘Meghan did not respond: ‘Oprah what are you talking about?’
According to Kump, Meghan’s comments were a ‘statement and expression of her own personal and subjective feelings’.
He said: ‘She never declared: ‘I am an only child with no siblings’, all she did was describe her own experiences growing up. Such statements are not readily capable of being proved true or false’.
Meghan didn’t actually say the line that she only met Samantha a ‘handful of times’ as alleged in the complaint.
The statement that Samantha only changed her surname to Markle when Meghan began dating Harry in 2016 was ‘substantially true’.
Kump said that the second complaint filed by Samantha ‘failed to fix the fatal defects that plagued the original’.
Ticktin tried to claim that Meghan ‘collaborated’ with the authors of Finding Freedom by providing background information to them through her press secretary at the time, Jason Knauf.
Ticktin claimed that this would be the ‘second time Meghan Markle is going to have to apologise for misleading a court’.
He said that during a libel case at the High Court in London, Meghan admitted that she did provide the information to Knauf.
Judge Honeywell cut in and said: ‘Even accepting what you just said, I’m still struggling to understand how that makes her responsible for publishing the allegedly defamatory statements contained in the book.
‘I’m not looking at British law, or African law or Greek law, I’m looking at Florida law which is pretty clear’.
Tickin said that if you have been ‘feeding information to people’ who republish it then you are liable.
He said: ‘She is telling her secretary to tell the people writing the book that upon Meghan dating Harry, Samantha changed her name back to Markle and began a career creating stories to tell to the press.
‘Here’s a woman who is in wheelchair who had to deal with bringing up three children and this is how she’s treated by her sister, it’s amazing’.
According to Ticktin, the implication was that Samantha is an ‘opportunist’.
He said: ‘This is a person who changed their name to Markle when I was dating Harry and that says it all because now you know who Samantha Markle is, she’s this disgusting opportunist’.
In a startling admission, Ticktin said that it was ‘not the strongest case in the world’ but as the case moved forward they hoped to make it stronger.
As the 80 minute hearing went on, Kump said that it was not defamatory to call someone an opportunist.
He said: ‘Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world are opportunists. All sorts of people are opportunists’.
In a nod to Harry and Meghan’s difficult relationship with the press, Kump said at another point: ‘Believe it or not what is reported is sometimes not true’.
Ticktin even raised the prospect of filing another defamation lawsuit based on the Sussexes Netflix series.
He siad: ‘If this gets dismissed would could file a more lawsuit on the more recent things but I think it’s more prudent to deal with it here
‘Now we have this whole deal on Netflix where Meghan Markle again defamed her sister’
Judge Honeywell said she would issue a written judgement.
She said: ‘I’m really struggling with trying to find under Florida law that defendant Markle published the allegedly defamatory statements.
In the weeks leading up to the hearing both sides had clashed in court filings.
Judge Honeywell refused to grant Meghan’s request to stop depositions being taken meaning that within the next few months they will have to be grilled by Samantha’s lawyers.
Among the claims they will be quizzed about is: ‘Queen Elizabeth was not a racist’ and ‘King Charles is not a racist’.x
But in a victory for the Duchess, the Judge Honeywell warned that the case may be ‘ripe for dismissal’.
In her complaint Samantha – who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair – accused her sister of making ‘demonstrably false and malicious statements’.
She claimed that Meghan’s interview with Oprah and the Finding Freedom book were designed to ‘destroy (her) reputation and credibility’.
Samantha objected to Meghan’s claims she was an only child – they are half sisters – and that they last spent time together 18 years ago.
In fact it was only after Meghan met Harry that their relationship became ‘estranged and hostile’, it is claimed.
In addition, Samantha complained about statements by Meghan’s PR representative Jason Knauf that she was ‘promiscuous and a bad mother who lost custody of all three of her children from different fathers’, the lawsuit states.
The complaint states: ‘Defendant (Meghan) orchestrated the campaign to defame and destroy her sister’s and her father’s reputation and credibility in order to preserve and promote the false ‘rags-to-royalty’ narrative Defendant had fabricated about her life to the Royal Family and the worldwide media’.
Samantha and Meghan have had a difficult relationship for years which exploded into public view after Meghan’s engagement to Harry was announced in 2017.
Samantha was quoted by journalists as saying that ‘The Queen would be appalled’ by the nuptials and called her a ‘ducha**’ on Twitter.
She later apologized but turned on Meghan again in her memoir, titled ‘The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister’.
In the book Samantha claimed that Meghan ordered their father to disown his children from his first marriage if he wanted an invitation to her wedding.
Samantha alleged that the stress of the row was one of the factors in Thomas Sr having a heart attack which prevented him from attending Meghan and Harry’s wedding in 2018.
The hearing comes after a judge last week refused to grant Meghan’s request to stop depositions being taken, meaning that she and Harry will be grilled by Samantha Markle’s lawyers.
Within the next few months they will have to discuss subjects including whether the late Queen Elizabeth was racist.
But in a victory for the Duchess, a judge warned that the case may be ‘ripe for dismissal’ before the depositions take place.
Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell said that after a ‘preliminary peek’ at Meghan’s request to dismiss the case there may be grounds to throw it out.
Samantha is seeking $75,000 in damages over claims in the Sussexes’ 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey and their 2020 biography Finding Freedom.
According to Samantha, the allegations subjected her to ‘humiliation, shame and hatred on a worldwide scale’.
Meghan’s lawyers have refused to respond to 38 questions from Samantha’s lawyers filed in the Florida federal court lawsuit as they want Judge Honeywell to rule on their motion to dismiss first.
They also asked the judge to stop the discovery process but she refused to do so.
In her ruling, Judge Honeywell wrote: ‘Defendant Markle does not show that unusual circumstances justify the requested stay, or that prejudice or an undue burden will result if the Court does not impose a stay.
‘Although a preliminary peek at the motion to dismiss suggests that some of the claims against her may be ripe for dismissal, the review does not reveal, at this time, a clear indication that the Court will dismiss the action in its entirety.
‘Thus, defendant Markle does not satisfy the high standard required to stay discovery pending the resolution of a dispositive motion.’
The ruling means that Meghan and Harry will have to sit for deposition which will have to take place before July, if the case moves ahead.
They are likely to be challenged about statements that Samantha wants a response to including: ‘Queen Elizabeth was not a racist’ and ‘King Charles is not a racist’.
Samantha claimed the Duchess ‘has utilized improper stonewalling to resist Mrs. Markle’s discovery efforts in this case’ in the hope the case is dismissed.
Meghan’s half-sister Samantha Markle is suing the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for $75,000 in damages over claims they made in their Oprah interview
She alleged that Meghan has provided ‘zero documents’ after she made 38 requests for emails and text messages, with the Duchess objecting to ‘each and every one of the requests’.
Meghan, through her lawyer, refused to respond to either because they were ‘not relevant’ to the case.
They refused to answer other questions on the same grounds, calling some ‘vague’.
Her lawyer declined to even respond to basic biographical requests for a response from Samantha.
They include that Meghan is not an only child as she claimed in the Oprah interview – she actually has a half brother, Thomas Jr, as well as Samantha, her half sister.
One request from Samantha states: ‘Please state whether or not you have ever spoken out in defense of the Plaintiff after seeing the public scrutiny/hatred she has received from your fans’.
Another claim Samantha is challenging is that Meghan once said she used to get into her old Ford Explorer through the boot because it was so broken down.
In the court papers, Samantha is seeking ‘any and all documents to evidence that you had a Ford Explorer with non-functioning doors’.
Samantha and Meghan have had a difficult relationship for years, which exploded into public view after Meghan’s engagement to Harry was announced in 2017.
Samantha was quoted by journalists as saying that ‘The Queen would be appalled’ and called her a ‘ducha**’ on Twitter.
In her memoir, titled ‘The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister’, Samantha claimed that Meghan ordered their father to disown his children from his first marriage if he wanted an invitation to her wedding.
According to the book, Meghan told Thomas Sr. to divorce himself from her and her brother Thomas by saying: ‘You don’t need them!’
Thomas Sr. refused and supposedly said: ‘I love you all equally’ to which Meghan replied: ‘Why can’t you just comply?’
Samantha also alleged that the stress of the row was one of the factors in Thomas Sr. having a heart attack which prevented him from attending the star-studded wedding in 2018.