What is the “Wagatha Christie” case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy?
In what is likely to be one of the more interesting legal battles of the year, Rebekah Vardy’s libel case against Coleen Rooney (dubbed the “Wagatha Christie” case, for their being wives and girlfriends of footballers) began recently with a victory for Coleen Rooney.
The Wagatha Christie case
For those who do not follow the tabloids closely, this is how the Wagatha Christie case began:
Rooney, suspecting that a friend was leaking personal information to the press, sent a series of fake stories to individual friends on Instagram, noting which she had sent to whom. Rooney then waited to see if any of the (invented) stories she had sent appeared in the press.
Sure enough, several days later, the Sun published one of Rooney’s invented stories. Rooney thought she had caught her leaking ‘friend’ and unmasked the alleged leaker as Rebekah Vardy. The allegations of leaking form the basis of Vardy’s libel case. Rooney will rely on the defence that her allegations against Vardy are substantially true.
The Strike Out application
What a judge has to say about the substance of the matter remains to be seen, but the first battle took place by way of a strike-out application. Vardy (as claimant in the libel case) applied to have parts of Rooney’s defence struck out, as irrelevant or peripheral. Vardy also asked the judge to give summary judgment on parts of her claim.
A strike-out application is a useful tool in any kind of litigation, as if successful, it reduces the number of matters that a defendant can refer to in their defence, or that a claimant can rely on in support of their claim. For this reason, it can also be a cost-saving application because it can help to narrow the number of issues that need to be dealt with at trial.
Vardy was partially successful in her strike-out application, and the judge ordered two parts of Rooney’s defence to be struck-out, however, five other parts that Vardy asked to be struck out were deemed relevant by the judge. You could call this a 5-2 win for Rooney.
On balance the judge saw it as a win for Rooney too and ordered that Vardy pay £10,000 towards Rooney’s legal costs of defending the application.
Vardy’s application for summary judgment sought to have the judge make a decision on a small matter within the overall claim. Summary judgments are usually applied for where one party has no real prospect of successfully arguing a particular point.
The benefit of this kind of application again is cost and time saving, as, if successful, it dispenses with the need for consideration of that point at trial. It can also give a tactical advantage to have a summary judgment in your favour early in the case to strengthen your overall negotiating position as you seek settlement.
In this case however, Vardy was not successful, as the judge decided that the particular point could be decided only once all the evidence had been heard at the full trial.
The case continues, and we may see other interim applications arise before the final showdown.
Should you require any advice on libel, defamation, interim applications or any other matters raised in this article, please get in touch with our Commercial Dispute Resolution team below.