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Media companies back 'American Sniper' estate in appeal of libel verdict

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Posted at 3:17 PM, Mar 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-16 16:15:14-04

Thirty-three media companies are supporting the estate of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle as his widow appeals a libel verdict.

The verdict, handed down last year, awarded $1.8 million to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Minnesota Lawyer named Ventura's trial team Attorneys of the Year after the jury agreed Ventura was defamed.

The suit was filed over an excerpt of Kyle's book, "American Sniper," in which the Navy SEAL described a confrontation with a celebrity at a bar in 2006 that resulted in a fight. Kyle later identified the celebrity as Ventura, who is also a former Navy SEAL.

Kyle, whose book was turned into a movie that became a box office hit starring Bradley Cooper, was killed at a shooting range in 2013 by a soldier suffering from PTSD. Eddie Ray Routh was convicted in February 2015 of capital murder in the shooting deaths of Kyle and fellow vet Chad Littlefield.

Variety paraphrased an amicus brief that the studio and media companies filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams challenges the jury’s award of profits from the sale of the book “American Sniper,” saying that it has “no foundation in the common law.” 

Media companies and organizations supporting the appeal include The E.W. Scripps Company, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Motion Picture Association of America, Buzzfeed and National Public Radio.

Abrams argues that the law of libel “has been clear that while an award of damages could be awarded to victims of libel, the awards would be limited to the recovery of money for the injuries said to have been sustained by plaintiffs and not for amounts claimed to have been received by defendants.”