A federal district court in Minnesota recently denied a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss a defamation claim brought by former Governor of Minnesota and professional wrestler, Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
In the lawsuit, Ventura alleges that he was defamed in a New York Times Bestseller written by former Navy Seal, Chris Kyle. In Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper, the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, Kyle described a physical altercation with Mr. Ventura — whom he refers to as “Scruffy Face” — in a subchapter entitled “Punching Out Scruffy Face.” Kyle wrote that, after exchanging words with Ventura on an evening in 2006, “I laid him out.” Although he did not name Ventura in the book, he later admitted in various media interviews that the “Scruffy Face” in question was indeed the Former Governor of Minnesota.
Kyle brought a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss Ventura’s defamation claim on the grounds that there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether: (i) the account in the book was materially false; and (ii) whether the account in the book was written with “actual malice,” as required for a defamation claim against a public figure.
On March 19, 2014, the court denied Kyle’s motion for summary judgment, reasoning that Ventura provided sufficient evidence that the statements in “Punchy Out Scruffy Face” were false that a jury could find in his favor. The effect of the court’s denial of the motion for summary judgment will be that, unless the case settles, Ventura’s defamation claim against Kyle will go to trial and be decided by a jury.
Takeaway: Unless you’ve got solid proof, it’s probably not a good idea to claim that you “laid out” Jesse Ventura. You may also want to avoid suggesting that Ventura has time to bleed.