Court overturns verdict in Ventura defamation case

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday overturned a jury’s decision to award $1.8 million to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura in a 2014 defamation case.

A three-judge panel threw out the $1.35 million awarded to Ventura for “unjust enrichment,” saying Minnesota law did not allow a payout in this type of case; and in a 2-1 decision, it reversed the $500,000 award for defamation, remanding the case to the district court for a new defamation trial.

The decision was a major victory for the estate of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who wrote the bestselling memoir that Ventura said defamed him. It was also a victory for news organizations, many of whom filed a brief in support of Kyle’s estate, urging that the verdict be thrown out.

It was a serious blow to Ventura, the former professional wrestler, who served as governor from 1999 to 2003.

Ventura contended that a false account of a fight in a California bar in 2006, published in Kyle’s memoir “American Sniper,” ruined his reputation among Navy SEALs, whose reunions he routinely attended after serving with the SEALs during the Vietnam War. Ventura contended that a passage describing an altercation, in which Kyle claimed he punched Ventura, never happened.

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