Report: Diana estate to sue Al Fayed for $13 million
December 21, 1997
Web posted at: 5:57 a.m. EST (1057 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- Princess Diana's estate is preparing to sue the Mohammed Al Fayed business empire for more than $13 million over her premature death, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reports.
The Times, quoting senior royal sources, said the possible lawsuit is pending the outcome of a French investigation of Diana's death. The sources told the Times that advisers to the estate are considering legal action in the event the Al Fayed empire is held responsible for the August 31 Paris crash that also killed Al Fayed's son, Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul.
Paul, head of security at Al Fayed's Ritz hotel, was legally drunk when the car slammed into the side of a tunnel at more than 100 mph (160 kph). Blood tests have revealed he also had taken anti-depressants in the hours before the fatal accident.
If the driver is found liable for the deaths, the Al Fayed empire also could be held liable for his actions while on duty.
"If a hotel provides a car and driver, then anyone riding in it has a reasonable right to expect the car and driver are suitable to perform the task assigned," a royal source told the Times.
Princes WIlliam (L) and Harry
The Times said the suit would be for a minimum of 8 million pounds, or $13.4 million -- the amount Diana's estate has paid in inheritance taxes on the 21 million pounds, or $34 million, she left her sons, Princes William and Harry. The estate is also considering a claim to seek an additional 25 million pounds, or $39 million, that the family says would have accrued on Diana's wealth had
she lived to old age.
"The tangible figure is the tax liability, perhaps with some sort of interest accumulator," the paper quoted a senior royal source as saying. "The tax has become payable maybe 30 years earlier than it should have been."
However, some sources were dismayed by some of the legalities involved and the figures being discussed.
"How can anyone put a price on the life of the Princess of Wales?" one royal source asked the Times.
Meanwhile, Diana's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the crash, has already said he will sue the party deemed responsible for the accident.
Diana's mother and sister -- Frances Shand-Kydd and Lady Sarah McCorquodale respectively -- have registered as civil parties to the police investigation, the Times said. As executors of Diana's estate, they will have access to any evidence found by investigators and will be able to sue anyone found responsible.
Family gains control over souvenirs
In another development, Britain's high court on Friday granted broad powers to the princess' estate to control the licensing of Diana souvenirs, a booming trade since her death.
The Times reported that former British Prime Minister John Major engineered the move. Major volunteered to act as a legal guardian for Princes William and Harry.
"It is not intended, under this ruling, that the executors should make money directly," said Martyn Gowar, an attorney representing Diana's estate. "Nor does it give them the power to give anything to charity. But it does enable them to control what is produced in the Princess's name, and to ensure that a proportion of the proceeds of any authorized item are paid into the memorial fund."