The much publicised “Wagatha Christie” trial reached its conclusion in July 2022 when Rebekah Vardy lost her defamation claim against Coleen Rooney.
Georgie Collins wrote about the detail of the case in her article in July but the case is back in the headlines again as the judgment in July was not the end of the matter for Ms Vardy or Ms Rooney.
By way of quick reminder – in case you need it – Coleen Rooney suspected that private personal details about her and her family were being leaked to the press and set up trap on Instagram whereby she blocked everyone bar Rebekah Vardy from seeing her stories, which were fabricated. When the details of the false stories appeared in the press, Coleen Rooney alleged that the leak was Rebekah Vardy’s account.
Rebekah Vardy made a claim against Coleen Rooney for defamation which Coleen Rooney successfully defended.
The outcome of the case was damaging for Rebekah Vardy given Mrs Justice Steyn’s comments that Coleen Rooney’s statements, about which Rebekah Vardy complained, were substantially true which was sufficient to defend the claim of defamation against her.
Conversely in relation to Rebekah Vardy, Mrs Justice Steyn found her evidence should be treated with caution, was inconsistent, evasive and implausible.
As the losing party Rebekah Vardy was ordered to pay Coleen Rooney’s costs of defending the claim, and the decision concerning these costs was handed down by the High Court on 4 October 2022.
It is not particularly surprising, given Mrs Justice Steyn’s comments regarding Rebekah Vardy’s evidence, that the judgment from the High Court in relation to the sum Rebekah Vardy must pay to Coleen Rooney in respect of her legal fees was damning in itself.
The usual course of conduct is that the losing party in a claim will pay the costs of the winning party, with those costs to be decided by the court if not agreed.
Whilst there is no hard and fast rule about the proportion of fees that are awarded, it is highly unusual for a party to be awarded their costs in full.
In this case, the court has assessed that Rebekah Vardy must pay 90% of Coleen Rooney’s costs, up to a maximum of £1.5million, which is a larger percentage than in many similar cases.
In deciding the amount of costs payable by Rebekah Vardy to Coleen Rooney the court has considered Ms Vardy’s conduct in the matter, which the court found included the deliberate destruction and deletion of relevant evidence, including numerous WhatsApp messages and the loss of a phone into the North Sea from a boat.
The fruitless task of searching for evidence which no longer existed was partly the cause of Coleen Rooney’s legal costs increasing significantly from those estimated earlier in the course of the proceedings.
Rebekah Vardy has made further comments following the costs judgment challenging Coleen Rooney to donate the sums awarded to her in the costs case to charity. It is important to draw a distinction between costs and damages – the sums awarded in the costs case are recompense to Coleen Rooney for the legal fees that she has necessarily incurred to defend the defamation claim made against her by Rebekah Vardy. Coleen Rooney will remain out of pocket given she was not awarded 100% of her costs.
It is worth noting that in addition to the payment of Coleen Rooney’s legal fees, Rebekah Vardy remains liable to her solicitors for her own legal fees, thought to be in excess of £1million as well as the legal costs of journalists at the Sun newspaper who became involved in the case.
For more information regarding legal funding please contact Duncan Hope, Katie Byrne or Steve Beahan.
Duncan Hope, Commercial Dispute Resolution Partner, comments “The outcome of this case is a stark reminder of the risks parties take on in relation to legal costs when embarking on litigation. Certain methods, such as After The Event (“ATE”) Insurance, are available to provide some costs protection in the event of an adverse costs order but where the court considers that the behaviour of an insured party in the conduct of the litigation has not been acceptable, insurers may refuse to pay out. "All litigants must ensure their conduct reaches the reasonable standard expected of a party engaged in legal proceedings given the expensive consequences of failing to do so.”