Jury Returns $1.2 Million Verdict in Jesse Ventura Defamation Lawsuit Against Chris Kyle


September 16, 2014

While massive judgments in defamation suits might not be an everyday occurrence, Jesse Ventura recently convinced a California jury to award him $1.8 million in damages. The former governor of Minnesota and pro wrestler prevailed in a lawsuit that named Chris Kyle, author of the book "American Sniper", as a defendant. The focus of the defamation lawsuit was a claim in the New York Times' best seller that Kyle "decked" Ventura after reportedly hearing Ventura claim that the Navy SEALS "deserve to lose a few". Prior to Kyle's death last year, he denied that he made the story up despite Ventura's claim that the incident was fabricated.

While the law on defamation, libel and slander differ from state to state, defamation basically refers to a false statement that is published to a third party which damages an individual's reputation. Defamation in Georgia can take two forms: (1) slander where the false damaging statement is oral; and (2) libel where the statement is in written form. If the false statement is in written form, damage to the plaintiff's reputation is presumed without proof of actual economic loss if the statement is published.

When the defamatory statement is slander, the financial impact is considered "fleeting" in terms of its effect on the plaintiff's reputation unless the statement falls into a category referred to as "slander per se". Categories of slander per se involve statements indicating the following: (1) Plaintiff is infected with a contagious disease; (2) Plaintiff is untrustworthy or corrupt in business matters; (3) Plaintiff lacks moral character; or (4) Plaintiff is guilty of a serious crime.

The issue in the lawsuit was not whether the claim that Kyle "decked" Ventura was true, but that Ventura claimed the SEALS "deserve to lose a few". Because Ventura is both a former SEAL and governor of Minnesota, the statement would be damaging to his reputation. The jury awarded $500,000 in damages for the defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment based on the fact that Kyle allegedly used the false statements in the book to profit from increased book sales. The book which was on the New York Times' bestsellers list for hardcover non-fiction with at least 400,000 copies in print purportedly generated more than $6 million for Kyle's estate.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Legal Experience to Work on Your Case

If your reputation has been disparaged by defamatory statements, contact our Georgia defamation lawyers to discuss your legal rights. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.