I wrote about Jesse Ventura’s defamation/unjust enrichment lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle in “American Sniper on trial” and in “American Sniper on trial: The verdict” and in American Sniper on trial: The appeal.” The case arises from a couple of pages now excised from the book about Kyle’s close encounter with Ventura at a bar in southern California.
Ventura alleged that the story Kyle recounted was false and defamatory and that the success of the book was attributable in part to the story Kyle told in those pages. A jury with two holdouts found in favor of Ventura. District Judge Richard Kyle (no relation to the family of Chris Kyle) entered judgment against the estate in the amount of nearly $2,000,000 on the two claims. The Kyle estate appealed the judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
A panel of three judges has now ruled in favor of the Kyle estate on appeal, vacating the unjust enrichment award and sending the defamation claim back for a new trial. The Eighth Circuit’s opinion is unanimous in overturning the unjust enrichment award and split 2-1 only in sending the defamation claim back for retrial. The unjust enrichment claim is now gone and will not be seen again.
The Eighth Circuit’s opinion is posted online by the court here. I encourage interested readers to check it out.
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 poor judgment. He put these qualities 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.