Duchess Meghan of Sussex scored a major victory Thursday in London, winning a summary judgment in her contentious lawsuit against a tabloid for invading her privacy when it published parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.
After more than a year of hearings and briefs, High Court Justice Mark Warby ruled that a trial on the case, set for the fall, was unnecessary, granting the summary judgment Meghan sought and thus ending the case in Meghan's favor.
In a statement, Meghan called out the tabloid Mail on Sunday for "illegal and dehumanizing practices."
"For these outlets, it’s a game," her statement said. "For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep."
Previous lawsuit coverage: Duchess Meghan's lawyers want to settle lawsuit against British newspaper ahead of trial
"The claimant had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The Mail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation," Warby said in his written ruling. "Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful. There is no prospect that a different judgment would be reached after a trial."
Meghan's lawyers argued that the Mail on Sunday and its publisher, Associated Newspapers, could not defend against her claims that the tabloid invaded her privacy and infringed on her copyright by publishing excerpts of her letter.
She is seeking damages for her claims, but that issue is still pending. She has said she will donate any money she receives to an anti-bullying charity.
It was another win for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their ongoing efforts to push back in civil courts against media coverage in Britain and in California (where they now live) that they consider invasive or abusive.
If the case had gone to trial, there was a strong possibility that Meghan, 39, would have to take the stand to testify, which could have been embarrassing for her and for the royal family, who rarely if ever testify in court.
Moreover, her father, some of her friends and some former members of the Sussex staff in London were expected to be called to testify by the Mail on Sunday.
Meghan issued a statement expressing gratitude to the courts for holding the tabloid "to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices." She said such tactics are not new and the world needs reliable, fact-checked news.
"What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite. We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain," she said.
Meghan said everyone has won from the result in her case.
"We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years," she said. “I share this victory with each of you – because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better."
Associated Newspapers said it was surprised and disappointed by the ruling and is considering whether to appeal, according to the Associated Press.
A lawyer for the tabloid, Antony White, argued in January at a hearing that Meghan had no reasonable expectation of privacy for her letter because “it’s to be inferred that the letter was written and sent by the claimant with a view to it being disclosed to third parties and read by the public.”
Meghan’s lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke, argued that that the publisher had “no real prospect” of winning because “it’s a very straightforward case about the unlawful publication of a private letter” meant as a "message of peace" for her father alone.
The former American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in May 2018 at Windsor Castle, a wedding watched by millions but not attended by her father, Thomas Markle, who said he was hospitalized for heart problems in California.
After the wedding, Meghan, now the Duchess of Sussex, wrote to her father about their estrangement. This letter came to light when anonymous friends of the duchess mentioned it in a People magazine interview, and eventually the Mail obtained a copy from Thomas Markle and published parts of it in several stories in February 2019.
She filed her lawsuit in October 2019, arguing among other legal issues that publishing the letter without her permission violated long-established copyright law, which holds that the contents of a private letter belong to the writer, not to the recipient.
As the case moved through the British civil court, Meghan won some rulings and lost others. In May 2020, parts of her lawsuit were deleted in a ruling, leaving her the loser in an opening legal bout but keeping alive her core complaints of copyright and privacy infringement.
The issue of damages – who pays what to which team of lawyers and how much – will be resolved later.
Although a trial is now off, revelations in case documents were eye-opening, including copies of messages between Harry and Thomas Markle prior to the wedding in which Harry urged Markle not to talk to the media. Other documents showed Meghan felt "unprotected" by the British monarchy during her pregnancy with baby Archie, born in May 2019.
The couple announced in January 2020 that they were stepping away from their senior royal roles and moving to North America to pursue more freedom, financial independence and privacy. They now live in Santa Barbara County as budding Hollywood producers, having signed deals with Netflix and Spotify to produce documentary and entertainment content.
'Most epic experience': Harry and Meghan surprise young poets in online poetry workshop
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan Markle wins privacy lawsuit against Mail on Sunday tabloid