Rebekah Vardy loses Wagatha Christie lawsuit against Coleen Rooney

Rebekah Vardy loses Wagatha Christie lawsuit against Coleen Rooney

Reality TV star Rebekah Vardy lost her lawsuit against TV personality Coleen Rooney in London’s High Court on Friday in a case that shows how social media has become a new battleground for defamation lawsuits.

The judge ruled in Rooney’s favour, ending the dramatic case – dubbed “Wagatha Christie” – which centered on the wives of the two footballers and drew global headlines and reports of tabloid intrigue.

The high-profile claim was made by Vardy, who is married to Leicester City player Jamie Vardy, against Rooney, the wife of Wayne Rooney, a former Manchester United and England captain.

Vardy had tried to clear her name after Rooney performed a “stab operation” three years ago to trace the source of leaks from her private Instagram account. In October 2019, Rooney accused Vardy of leaking stories about her personal life to The Sun newspaper.

In her sentencing, Mrs Justice Steyn stated that Vardy had in all likelihood leaked the story about Rooney to the press.

The case lasted seven days and sparked a media circus, with lawyers poring over pages of WhatsApp exchanges, debating the meaning of the emojis used in them.

It has shined a spotlight on social media as the new frontier for defamation law, where everyone is a publisher, according to legal experts.

“Twitter spats are becoming more of a part of our litigation landscape,” said Matthew Dando, trial attorney and media law specialist at Wiggin. “The usual laws apply [online] from the point of view of defamation.”

“But you get allegations that are a lot of hip-shooting. . . and things like emojis make meaning more difficult,” he added.

WhatsApp messages peppered with emojis exchanged by Rooney and Vardy were examined in evidence during the hearing, prompting the judge to consider the meaning of pictograms commonly used in texts.

Such considerations have become more relevant as celebrities increasingly use platforms like Instagram to set their own news agendas and bypass traditional media.

In 2019, Rooney set an elaborate trap on Instagram by posting a series of fake stories and then limiting the number of followers who could see them and waiting for the stories to appear in the press until Vardy was the only suspect left was.

Coleen Rooney arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in May
Coleen Rooney arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in May © John Sibley/Reuters

The case is estimated to have cost millions of pounds in legal fees and highlighted the use of the London courts and English libel laws by the rich and powerful to settle their personal disputes.

The judge said Vardy, along with her agent Caroline Watt, was “involved in disclosing fake stories to The Sun,” for example one about Rooney traveling to Mexico to undergo a “gender selection process” to adopt a baby girl get , and a play on her basement flooding.

Judge Steyn said it was “probable” that Watt “took the direct act” of leaking stories to the press, but that Vardy “knew and condoned” the behavior. She added that it was likely Watt “deliberately dropped her phone in the sea” to avoid delivering court-requested messages.

Defamation lawsuits rake in hefty fees for London law firms. Rooney and Vardy’s legal fees are likely to exceed £1m. Vardy could now be forced to pay Rooney’s costs under the loser pays rule in English civil cases. The total number will be determined at a later hearing.

Rooney said in a statement that she was “delighted” that the verdict was in her favor, but that she “never believed” that the case “would have gone to trial at such a cost in a time of need for so many people.” should have spent much better helping others when the money could have been.

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