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Ventura v. Kyle

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 19, 2014

Jesse Ventura a/k/a James G. Janos, Plaintiff,
v.
Taya Kyle, Executrix of the Estate of Chris Kyle, Defendant

David Bradley Olsen, Court J. Anderson, John N. Bisanz, Jr., Henson & Efron, PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

John P. Borger, Mary Andreleita Walker, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendant.

OPINION

Page 1116

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This defamation action arises from a passage in decedent Chris Kyle's autobiography describing an altercation with Plaintiff Jessie Ventura during a Navy SEAL's wake. In his book, Kyle wrote that Ventura made offensive comments about the SEALs and their service in the Iraq war, so Kyle " laid him out." Ventura claims Kyle fabricated the encounter to gain publicity. He commenced this action against Kyle asserting claims for defamation, appropriation, and unjust enrichment. While this action was pending, Kyle was tragically killed, and his wife, Taya Kyle, acting as executrix of his estate, now moves for summary judgment on Ventura's claims. For the reasons that follow, her Motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Jesse Ventura is a well-known former wrestler, actor, and Governor of Minnesota, who served as a member of the Navy Special Forces Underwater Demolition/SEAL Teams during the Vietnam War. Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper and author of an autobiography entitled American Sniper, the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. The book, which was released

Page 1117

January 3, 2012, reached number one on the New York Times' Bestseller list by January 29, 2012, and in June 2012, Warner Brothers purchased the rights to a film adaptation.

In American Sniper, Kyle wrote a subchapter captioned " Punching Out Scruff Face" about an alleged altercation with Ventura. According to Kyle, the encounter took place at McP's, a bar in Coronado, California, on October 12, 2006, during a wake for Kyle's comrade, Mike Monsoor, who was killed in the line of duty. The subchapter reads as follows:

AFTER THE FUNERAL WE WENT TO A LOCAL BAR FOR THE WAKE proper.
As always, there were a bunch of different things going on at our favorite nightspot, including a small party for some older SEAL's and UDT members who were celebrating the anniversary of their graduation. Among them was a celebrity I'll call Scruff Face.
Scruff served in the military; most people seem to believe he was a SEAL. As far as I know, he was in the service during the Vietnam conflict but not actually in the war.
I was sitting there with Ryan and told him that Scruff was holding court with some of his buddies.
" I'd really like to meet him," Ryan said.
" Sure." I got up and went over to Scruff and introduced myself.
" Mr. Scruff Face, I have a young SEAL over here who's just come back from Iraq. He's been injured but he'd really like to meet you."
Well, Scruff kind of blew us off. Still, Ryan really wanted to meet him, so I brought him over. Scruff acted ...

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