Rebekah Vardy’s £900,000 budget for her libel battle with Coleen Rooney is “grotesque”, the High Court has heard.
Mrs Rooney, 34, accused Mrs Vardy, 39, of leaking “false stories” about her private life in October 2019, after carrying out a months-long “sting operation”, which saw her dubbed “Wagatha Christie”.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney claimed fellow footballer’s wife Mrs Vardy shared fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with The Sun newspaper.
Mrs Rooney said she planted three stories, about her travelling to Mexico to “see what this gender selection is all about”, returning to TV, and the basement flooding in her new house.
She then wrote on Instagram and Twitter: “For a few years now someone who I trusted to follow me on my personal Instagram account has been consistently informing The Sun newspaper of my private posts and stories.
“It’s ……………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for damages for libel.
At a brief preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Mrs Rooney’s barrister John Samson asked the court to “reject the claimant’s cost budget and ask them to review it because, in the words of my lay client, it is grotesque”.
Mr Samson told Judge Roger Eastman that the sums involved were “huge”, telling the court that “the claimant’s budget to date, including incurred costs, is double that of the defendant”.
In written submissions, Mrs Vardy’s barrister Sara Mansoori said Mrs Vardy’s overall budget was “£897,000, the estimated costs of which are £465,842.
“This compares to Mrs Rooney’s estimated costs in her cost budget of £402,312.”
Ms Mansoori said her client’s £897,000 budget “reflects the complexity, scope and scale of the legal and factual issues”.
She added: “Mrs Vardy’s cost budget reflects the very serious nature of the highly damaging defamatory allegation made against her – which continues to be published by Mrs Rooney.
“It has caused enormous distress to Mrs Vardy and led to her being targeted by hostile and abusive online messages, as well as causing extreme upset and anxiety to members of her family.
“It was necessary to take steps to seek to understand the allegations made by Mrs Rooney, which involved technical expertise, as well as to seek to resolve the dispute.
“Regrettably this was not possible and further costs have been incurred in pursuing the claim to this stage.”
He also gave the parties until June to file revised cost budgets.
Ms Mansoori also told the court that her client was going to apply to strike out parts of Mrs Rooney’s defence, unless they were withdrawn.
She said Mrs Rooney’s written defence raises “a huge number of additional matters”, including allegations that Mrs Vardy has “developed and maintained exceptionally close relationships with a number of journalists over the years, for self-promotion, financial reward or positive news coverage”.
She said those allegations did not “relate to the defamatory allegations in issue”, and should be removed from Mrs Rooney’s defence.
The court also heard that both Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney wanted to instruct experts to give evidence on “Instagram and how it operates”, including how posts can be made public or private and how followers are blocked on the platform.
Mrs Vardy sued Mrs Rooney last June, claiming she “suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed”.
In her written case against Mrs Rooney, Mrs Vardy’s lawyers said the abuse she received made her “feel suicidal”, adding: “She suffered from severe panic attacks and anxiety which manifested in being scared to leave her house.”
Mrs Vardy claimed her husband Jamie was targeted during football matches, with opposition fans chanting “your wife is a grass” for up to five minutes at a time.
But Mrs Rooney’s lawyers said the post was “entirely legitimate and justified” and referred to Mrs Vardy’s “exceptionally close relationship” with The Sun and some of its journalists.
An attempt at mediation, to try to resolve the case without a trial, took place earlier this year, the court heard on Tuesday.