A legal eagle calls to my attention the Arkansas connection in a decision by the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a $1.8 million jury verdict in favor of Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler and Minnesota governor, in a defamation case against the estate of Chris Kyle, author of the best-selling memoir “American Sniper.”
Ventura said the book’s account that Kyle punched him at a SEALS reunion didn’t happen and defamed him.
A jury awarded Ventura $1.35 million for unjust enrichment and $500,000 for defamation, both reversed. A three-judge panel, including Judges Bobby Shepherd of El Dorado and Lavenski Smith of Little Rock, unanimously reversed the unjust enrichment award. The panel said such an award wasn’t allowed in the case.
By a 2-1 vote, the panel reversed the defamation finding and returned it to a lower court for retrial. In this, Smith dissented. He disagreed with the argument that a mention of Kyle family insurance coverage had prejudiced their defense. He also said the $500,000 in damages was not excessive.