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Justice James Warby observed that he has acted to “confine the case to what is reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties.”
Last week, the UK High Court struck off multiple claims pressed by Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle in her lawsuit against UK tabloid The Daily Mail over the publication of personal letters sent by her to her father (Sussex v Associated Newspapers Ltd.)
Markle has claimed that the publication amounted to a misuse of private information, a breach of duty under the General Data Protection Regulation and infringement of copyright.
On April 24, Justice Mark Warby struck out multiple general allegations made by Markle in her Particulars of Claim (CoC) under the head of misuse of private information, including allegations of dishonesty, malicious intent, of the Daily Mail having an “agenda” in publishing the articles and of the tabloid having deliberately “stirred up” conflict between Markle and her father.
However, before parting with the judgment, he made note to record,
The claims in question have been rejected on grounds that the same were irrelevant to the liability for the alleged misuse of private information. The Court found that the pleadings on these issues were vague and inadequate to support Markle’s claim qua misuse of private information.
Further, Justice Warby also observed that he has acted to “confine the case to what is reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties.”
The claims struck off were “likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings, by calling for an investigation which can have no bearing on the decision as to liability”, the judge has observed.
He explained further, “First, that the pleading of the case is wholly inadequate. Much more detail would be required to enable the pleaded claims to be fully understood and dealt with.
Secondly, and crucially, that the costs and time that would be required to investigate and resolve the factual issues raised by the case as currently pleaded bear no reasonable relationship of proportionality with the legitimate aim of recovering some additional compensation for emotional harm. Those conclusions are enough to justify my decision to strike out the passages objected to.”
“That the pleading of the case is inadequate seems to me to follow inescapably from the principles I have identified, and from the underlying purposes of pleadings, which are to ensure that the opposite party knows the case it has to meet and can prepare to do so.”
Justice Mark Warby
Read the Judgment:
The case is centred on five articles published by The Daily Mail involving letters sent by Meghan Markle to her father.
Markle claims that the letters were private and confidential, and that it contained personal data. The disclosure of the same amounts to misuse of her private information, therefore, it is contended. Inter alia, she has also asserted copyright over the letters, asserting that she is the author of the “original literary work” contained therein.
In denying the allegations, the Daily Mail has asserted that the letters were not private or confidential. While the letter may contain personal data, the Tabloid has asserted that its processing of the same was not unlawful or unfair. Markle’s claim of copyright is also denied. Alternatively, the Daily Mail has contended that if any copyright subsists in the letter “the extent to which the Letter is the claimant’s (Markle’s) own intellectual creation is very limited.”
The case may ultimately hinge on whether Markle had a reasonable expectation that the letters would remain private, given that she is a public figure, and whether her expectations of privacy were outweighed by “public interest.”