The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit sided with the widow of American war hero Chris Kyle on Tuesday, reversing a federal trial court’s judgment in favor of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Writing for the Eighth Circuit, Chief Judge William Jay Riley summarized the case:
Before his death, Chris Kyle was a sniper for a United States Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) team. He authored the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (American Sniper). In the book, Kyle described punching a celebrity referred to as “Scruff Face” who was making offensive remarks about the SEALs at a gathering following the funeral of a SEAL killed in combat. In interviews about the book, Kyle revealed “Scruff Face” was James Janos, better known as Jesse Ventura. Ventura, who was at the bar but denied a fight occurred, sued Kyle … for defamation, misappropriation, and unjust enrichment, alleging Kyle fabricated the incident.
A jury trial was held in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, after which Ventura was granted $500,000 for defamation and $1.35 million for unjust enrichment. Chris Kyle was murdered on February 2, 2013, by a former Marine whom Kyle was trying to help. Taya Kyle became the legal administrator for her husband after the former SEAL was murdered, and appealed the federal district court’s judgment against her husband.
The Eighth Circuit found multiple problems with the trial court’s legal analysis and procedural calls, unanimously reversing the claim of unjust enrichment. Such claims can only be made under Minnesota law if the parties have some sort of business relationship. Chris Kyle had no such relationship with Ventura.
The St. Louis-based appeals court also threw out the defamation award of $500,000 by a 2-1 vote and remanded that issue back to the district court for a new trial on the defamation claim. The court held that some of the items the district judge allowed presented to the jury prejudiced the jurors against Kyle, especially telling the jury that an insurance company would cover any money the jury awarded to Ventura for defamation, when, in fact, it was never submitted into evidence that such an insurance policy even exists.
The case is Ventura v. Kyle.
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.