A federal appeals court has thrown out a $1.8 million judgment awarded to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who says he was defamed in the late author Chris Kyle’s bestselling book American Sniper.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected the jury’s 2014 award of $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment against Kyle’s estate.
The court reversed the unjust-enrichment award, saying it fails as a matter of law. It also vacated the defamation award, but ordered a new trial for that portion of the case.
Kyle, a Navy SEAL and the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, claimed to have punched Ventura at a California bar in 2006 after Ventura said the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq.
Ventura, a former SEAL, testified he never made the comments and that the altercation never happened.
This lawsuit was an embarrassment even before Kyle’s tragic death, but the fact that Ventura seemed so gleeful about the victory afterward was disgusting. Ventura worried about the story in the book ruining his reputation with a generation of young SEALS, but he probably did more damage by publicly reveling over a court judgment that was only going to hurt Kyle’s widow and children.
Ventura appeared outside the courthouse last fall following the oral argument of the appeal before the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul. The Star Tribune’s Abby Simmons and Randy Furst covered the argument and provided a brief account of Ventura’s remarks here. The Star Tribune also posted a video with excerpts of Ventura speaking outside the courthouse at the top of the Simmons and Furst story.
Ventura has become a visibly unsavory character of bad judgment. These qualities were on display in the video of his comments posted by the Star Tribune. Ventura mockingly disparaged the late Chris Kyle as “Superman.” Unfortunately, Kyle isn’t around any longer to defend himself. One is left to reflect what a poor excuse for a man Ventura is, and not just by contrast with Kyle.
As he has done in his lawsuit and elsewhere, outside the courthouse Ventura attributed the decline in his fortunes over the years to what Kyle wrote about him in American Sniper. If one were to take Ventura’s comments at face value, one might infer that Ventura is a man in need of an intervention of some kind. One wonders if he has any friends left. He needs to summon the fortitude to look at himself in the mirror.
I agree with the court’s opinion on appeal that that critical rulings by the trial judge with respect to unjust enrichment and evidence of insurance were mistaken. I thought that Judge Riley’s comments at oral argument of the appeal suggested that Ventura’s side of the case has trouble ahead. The court’s opinion kills the unjust enrichment claim and ensures that the defamation claim will be retried without the question of insurance to color the outcome.
Hopefully, Round Two of the defamation suit will have a better outcome than the first.