Court Overturns Verdict In ‘American Sniper’ Defamation Case

news
A photo composite shows Chris Kyle, left, former Navy SEAL and author of the book “American Sniper,” and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, right.
Associated Press photo

On June 13, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a jury’s decision to award Jesse Ventura  $1.8 million in damages following a 2014 defamation case between Ventura and the estate of Chris Kyle, reports the Associated Press.


The late Kyle was a former Navy SEAL and regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history.

Related: Navy Investigating Whether Chris Kyle Misrepresented His Combat Awards »

In his book, “American Sniper,” Kyle described a fight between himself and Ventura at a California bar in 2006, and accused the former Minnesota governor of making offensive comments about Navy SEALs, including a line about how they "deserve to lose a few" in Iraq.

Kyle, who was killed by a troubled fellow veteran on a shooting range in 2013, gave sworn videotaped testimony before his death that the story was true.  

Ventura, a Navy veteran and former SEAL himself, testified that the altercation never happened and that the chapter ruined his reputation among the tight-knit community, when he sued for defamation in 2014.

A jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment. Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle appealed, asking that the verdict be thrown out and a new trial ordered on First Amendment grounds.

During the recent ruling, a three-judge panel unanimously reversed the unjust enrichment award, saying the theory of unjust enrichment did not apply in this case. For unjust enrichment to apply, Ventura would have had to establish that he had at a “preexisting contractual or quasi-contractual relationship with Kyle,” reports the Star Tribune.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges also reversed the $500,000 defamation award, and remanded the case to the district court for a new defamation trial.

Two of the three judges found Ventura’s attorneys improperly let the jury hear that the book’s publisher Harper Collins had an insurance policy to cover a defamation award and attorney fees.

"From our review, these unsupported, improper, and prejudicial statements were not heat of the moment argument, but were strategic and calculated," the judges wrote, noted the Associated Press.

Jurors would be less hesitant to issue a substantial defamation award if they knew Tara Kyle was covered by an insurance policy, said the appellate court according to the Star Tribune.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Known for acting on impulse, President Donald Trump has adopted an uncharacteristically go-slow approach to whether to hold Iran responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, showing little enthusiasm for confrontation as he seeks re-election next year.

After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump didn't wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.

But four days later, Trump has no timetable for action. Instead, he wants to wait and see the results of investigations into what happened and is sending Pompeo to consult counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week.

Read More Show Less

That sound you're hearing is Army senior leaders exhaling a sigh of relief, because the Army has surpassed its recruiting goal for the year.

After failing to meet recruiting goals in 2018, the Army put the pedal to the metal and "did some soul searching," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, to ensure that they'd meet their 2019 goal. It must have paid off — the service announced on Tuesday that more than 68,000 recruits have signed on as active-duty soldiers, and more soldiers have stuck around than they expected.

Read More Show Less

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein transformed into the Cigarette Smoking Man from "The X-Files" on Tuesday when explaining why UFO enthusiasts should avoid storming the mythical Area 51 installation in Nevada.

"All joking aside, we're taking it very seriously," Goldfein told reporters during the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. "Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected. The people deserve to have our nation's secrets protected."

Read More Show Less
Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego-based Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in a closely watched war crimes trial this summer has filed a lawsuit against two of his former attorneys and a military legal defense nonprofit, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Texas on Friday.

Read More Show Less

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Air Force is reviewing whether some airmen's valor awards deserve to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said on Tuesday.

Goldfein revealed that several airmen are being considered for the nation's highest military award during a press conference at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. He declined to say exactly who could receive the Medal of Honor, pending the outcome of the review process.

Read More Show Less