When Rebekah Vardy lost her High Court defamation claim earlier this year against Coleen Rooney, one of the matters left over for determination was the issue of costs. Ms Vardy lost her case in a unequivocable manner, with the judge concluding that significant parts of her evidence were “manifestly inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence, evasive or implausible”. It was thus inevitable that costs would follow the event and Ms Vardy would be picking up the bill for a large portion of Ms Rooney’s costs.
We now know how much of a bill that will be. On Tuesday, 4 October 2022, the High Court determined that Rebekah Vardy must pay 90% of Ms Rooney’s court costs, around £1.5 million. Ms Vardy has also been ordered to pay the legal costs of journalists at the Sun that were involved in the case. This is on top of Ms Vardy’s own legal costs. It’s not hard to imagine that her legal costs will exceed £3 million when all is said and done.
It’s also reported that the judge imposed a punitive charge based on Ms Vardy’s behaviour during the trial and the discovery process. The judge concluded that Ms Vardy likely deleted WhatsApp messages and her agent, Caroline Watt, likely deliberately destroyed a key piece of evidence, Ms Watt’s mobile phone, by dropping it off a boat in the North Sea.
Issues during the discovery process can lead to an array of consequences, and there is always the potential for a case to be struck out at an interim stage and a party to be held in contempt of court if full and proper discovery is not made. However, this is a nuclear option and was not done the in the “Wagatha Christie” case. It appears that instead the judge felt that the lapses could be dealt with by a castigatory costs order at the end of the day.
This case highlights an important reality for any potential litigant. No matter how strong you think your case is (and Ms Vardy obviously did believe that she would be successful despite the eventual outcome), there are no guarantees, and the potential benefits of a successful claim can sometimes pale in comparison to the legal costs of an unsuccessful claim.