MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A federal appeals court on Monday threw out the $1.8 million defamation verdict awarded to former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.
Ventura said he was defamed by the late author Chris Kyle in the best-selling book, “American Sniper.”
A Minnesota jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million more for “unjust enrichment.” The Appeals Court said Ventura’s lawyers wrongly told the jury damage awards would be paid by insurance companies — not by Kyle’s widow, Taya.
“You are talking about a multi-millionaire wife!” Ventura told reporters in October 2015. “And she’s not going to pay a cent anyway! The insurance company’s got it from top to bottom.”
Ventura sued Kyle’s estate because his memoir “American Sniper” claimed Kyle punched Ventura in a California bar after Ventura made offensive comments about Navy Seals, an incident the former Governor denied.
Ventura said the false story propelled “American Sniper” to the best-seller list. And later into a Hollywood movie, which did not include the incident.
The former governor told reporters last year the bad publicity ruined his reputation and dried up any job prospects.
“So don’t tell me I haven’t suffered. I’ve suffered a great deal from this lie,” he said.
The Appeals Court ruled that comments by Ventura’s lawyers “prevented Kyle from receiving a fair trial.”
The case now goes back to U.S. District Court, where the former Governor must decide whether he wants to re-litigate the case in a second trial. Ventura and his lawyers did not return our calls for comment.
A spokeswoman for Harper Collins, the publisher of “American Sniper,” said the company is reviewing the court opinion and declined comment.