Meghan Markle Wins Bid to Dismiss Defamation Lawsuit Filed by Half-Sister Samantha Markle

Samantha Markle sued the Duchess of Sussex for defamation stemming from her interview with Oprah Winfrey and the unauthorized royal biography Finding Freedom

FOX; Karwai Tang/WireImage
FOX; Karwai Tang/WireImage

A Florida judge has ruled that Meghan Markle's half-sister Samantha Markle cannot sue the Duchess of Sussex for defamation over claims made in the unauthorized biography Finding Freedom and Meghan's comments in her CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey.

U.S. District Attorney Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell has determined that Meghan "cannot be held liable for statements in a book that she did not publish" and that telling Oprah she "grew up as an only child" is not falsifiable as a protected opinion. The lawsuit was filed in Florida in March 2022, and Samantha sought $75,000 in damages, the BBC reported.

Samantha, 58, and Meghan, 41, are half-sisters as the daughters of Thomas Markle. Samantha claimed in the lawsuit that she and Meghan "were close during childhood" but drifted after Meghan started dating Prince Harry, who she married in May 2018. Samantha also said she was subjected to negative press after saying in a December 2018 interview that their father should have been at Meghan and Harry's royal wedding.

Samantha also took issue with the contents of a chapter titled "A Problem Like Samantha" in the book Finding Freedom, which focused on Harry and Meghan's love story and step back from their roles as senior working royals. The book was written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand in August 2021.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

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In March 2021, the CBS television special Oprah with Meghan and Harry drew over 50 million global viewers. In the lawsuit, Samantha said it was defamatory that the Duchess of Sussex said she "grew up as an only child," and claimed Meghan said Samantha "changed her last name back to Markle" after she started dating Prince Harry with defamatory implications.

"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," Honeywell wrote, dismissing the claim.

Concluding in the lawsuit, the judge continued, "For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants the motion to dismiss. Plaintiff's claims based on Finding Freedom will be dismissed with prejudice, as Plaintiff cannot plausibly allege that Defendant published the book, and amendment of these claims would be futile. Plaintiff will be allowed one final opportunity to replead her claims related to Defendant's CBS interview and her claim for injurious falsehood."

In the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, which premiered in December 2022, audiences were introduced to Ashleigh Hale, Samantha's daughter with whom Meghan is close. In the limited series, Meghan said she wanted to invite Ashleigh to her royal wedding in 2018 but was told by the palace that she could not.

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Netflix Ashleigh Hale and Meghan Markle
Netflix Ashleigh Hale and Meghan Markle

"How do we explain that this half-sister isn't invited to the wedding, but that the half-sister's daughter is?" Meghan said. "With Ashleigh, the guidance at the time was to not have her come to our wedding. I was in the car with H. I had her on speakerphone and we talked her through what guidance we were given and why this assessment was made ... and that's painful."

"I think I said I was hurt on some level, but I understood where it was coming from," Ashleigh said. "To know that it was because of my biological mother that this relationship that's so important to me was impacted in that way ... to feel like, because of her it was taken away, has been hard."

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Netflix Ashleigh Hale
Netflix Ashleigh Hale

Ashleigh, an immigration attorney, said she and her brother were raised by their paternal grandparents, whom she considers her parents. She had not seen Samantha since she was 6 until they reconnected in 2007.

That was also when Meghan reached out to her niece — a relationship that started with "these long emails back to each other," Ashleigh recalled. "And then texts and calls. After a while, I think we were talking, on some level, several days a week."

Meghan said that she believes she and Ashleigh "craved the same thing," explaining, "I wanted a sister, and she was like a little sister."

Added Ashleigh of the time when Meghan's relationship with Harry became public, "After the news first broke, Samantha pretty quickly began expressing a lot of angry words about Meg towards me."

"What was communicated to me was maybe some resentment," she added. "And it felt like no matter what I said, her perspective didn't change and seemed to get angrier and bigger, and we stopped talking. Some people you just can't reason with."

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