MEGHAN Markle today won her bid to delay her privacy court battle for almost a year over a "confidential" matter – despite her dad warning "I could die tomorrow".
The Duchess of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, for releasing a letter she wrote to her estranged father Thomas Markle.
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A ten-day trial was set to take place in London on January 11 next year, with the 39-year-old possibly expected to give evidence in the witness box.
But a private hearing was held at the High Court this morning before the judge agreed to delay the trial – despite her dad Thomas Markle warning he "could die tomorrow".
Mr Justice Warby today said he had considered the request, made behind closed doors, and granted the delay until autumn next year – adding the "primary basis" on which the adjournment was sought was "confidential".
He said: "The right decision in all the circumstances is to grant the application to adjourn.
"That means that the trial date of January 11 2021 will be vacated and the trial will be refixed for a new date in the autumn."
It was revealed today that:
- Meghan Markle's privacy battle won't go to trial in January and has instead been adjourned to autumn next year
- Mr Justice Warby said the 'primary basis' on which the adjournment was sought was 'confidential'
- A hearing was held behind closed doors before the judge revealed his decision
- Her lawyers' application to appeal the judge's decision to allow the Mail on Sunday to use Finding Freedom as part of their defence was denied
- Meghan has been given permission to apply for a summary judgment in January
- Thomas Markle said he could 'die tomorrow' as he begged the court to reject Meghan's bid to delay the trial
- The 39-year-old's estranged dad said he has anxiety around the case but has vowed to tell the truth
The decision comes after 76-year-old Thomas said he wanted to get the trial done "as quickly as possible" due to his ailing health – and was planning to travel to London for the High Court showdown.
In a statement to the court, the dad said none of his male relatives had ever lived beyond 80 years of age, saying: "I am a realist and I could die tomorrow. The sooner this case takes place the better."
The "elderly and sick" man, who currently lives in Mexico, also detailed his health concerns including struggling to walk 40 steps without getting out of breath.
Meghan's lawyers had also applied to appeal the judge's decision that saw the explosive biography Finding Freedom to be included by the defence in the trial.
However Mr Justice Warby today refused the application.
The Mail on Sunday had been permitted to amend its defence that the Sussexes "co-operated" with the authors of the biography.
Jane Phillips, representing Meghan, told Mr Justice Warby: "The new case ought not to have been allowed.
She said: "It was speculative, it was unsubstantiated by evidence and it was inherently implausible and, we say most importantly, it was bad in law."
She added that the new case was "not only a stab in the dark, but it was a stab in the dark in the wrong room".
Thomas Markle’s statement
This case is causing me anxiety and I want to get it over with as quickly as possible.
I am 76-years-old and as a result of my heart condition and surgery I am on blood thinners which have had an effect on my breathing. I am unable to walk far or up many stairs.
I can't manage to take more than 30 to 40 steps without getting winded and needing to slow down until I have caught my breath.
I have had a cold for 3 to 4 years which is connected to my heart and lung issues.
I am clinically obese and I have gained more weight during the past months before I have been unable to leave my house to take any exercise. I am pre-diabetic.
I don't know what the position will be in several months' time. I have not been back to Chula Vista hospital and although I see a local doctor and I am willing to see a doctor to have my heart and lungs checked, I do not want to know whether I now have cancer or any other serious conditions.
None of my male relatives has ever lived beyond 80 years of age.
I am a realist and I could die tomorrow. The sooner this case takes place the better.
Thomas Markle's ailments:
- Clinically obese
- A cold for three to four years
- Heart condition
- On blood thinners due to surgery
- Worried he might have cancer
Finding Freedom, written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, is a tell-all about the Sussexes experience when they quit as senior royals in what become dubbed Megxit.
Meghan had last month lost a court battle to block claims she allegedly co-operated with the authors.
She was accused of feeding personal information to the writers of the biography to “set out her own version of events in a way that is favourable to her”.
Legal experts today speculated the duchess might be hoping to avoid giving evidence during the trial, therefore steering clear of being cross-examined.
But a source close to the duchess said they believed they had “an overwhelmingly strong case”.
The source said: “We do not believe that the defence’s case has a chance of succeeding, and do not believe there is a compelling reason for trial.
“We are confident in our case and therefore believe it should be determined on a summary basis.”
What is a Summary Judgment?
The court may give summary judgment against a claimant or defendant on the whole of a claim or on a particular issue if it is agreed that:
- The claimant has no real prospect of succeeding on the claim
- The defendant has no real prospect of successfully defending the claim
- There is another compelling reason why the case or issue should be disposed of at trial
Meghan's team have also lodged an application for a Summary Judgment, arguing there isn't a compelling reason for a trial.
However the decision to allow the summary judgment decision will not be made today as it was only filed by Meghan's lawyers as recently as four working days ago.
Instead, her legal team will make their case for the judgment in January next year – when the original trial was supposed to be held.
If successful, a summary judgment would mean no trial would be held.
The Duchess is seeking damages from the Mail on Sunday for alleged misuse of private information, breaching the Data Protection Act and infringement of copyright over five articles published in February 2019 which included extracts from the "private and confidential" letter to her father.
Publisher Associated Newspapers claimed Prince Harry's wife had herself leaked details of the letter to the media through friends.
The publisher argued that Meghan was "pleased" when five friends spoke up to defend her in an interview with People Magazine, which mentioned the letter.
And last month the publisher sought permission to amend its defence to argue Meghan "co-operated with the authors of the recently published book Finding Freedom to put out their version of certain events".
Anthony White QC, for the MoS, said: “[Meghan] has allowed information about her private and family life, including her relationship and communications with her father and the letter, and the private and family lives of others, to enter the public domain by means of the book.”
Prince Harry’s wife was also told to pay £39,000 costs on top of estimated legal costs of £140,000, totalling £179,000.
Meghan’s lawyers have fiercely denied she collaborated with the authors – even calling the stories in Finding Freedom “extremely anodyne, the product of creative licence and/or inaccurate” in a bid to distance her from it.
Author Omid Scobie claimed in his witness statement it was "false" to suggest Harry or Meghan collaborated on Finding Freedom.
Meghan, who is currently living in the US with Prince Harry and their one-year-old son Archie, is suing ANL over five articles in total, two in the MoS and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019, and reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her father in August 2018.
ANL wholly denies the allegations, particularly the duchess's claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case.
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