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CCBA Feature
plaintiffs often have to prove consequential damages,
versus the comparatively straightforward task of proving
that a media defendant earned a profit from the relevant
publication, especially if the courts do not require proof
of clear causal connection between defamatory words and
the defendant's profits. Allowing defamation-based unjust
enrichment claims would thus encourage more frequent
claims against media companies, and especially against the
most profitable media brands.
Also, defamation-based unjust enrichment claims
would predictably increase plaintiffs' desire and ability to
widen discovery to investigate the revenues and profits of
media defendants, a prospect that would increase defense
costs as well as risk the release of sensitive financial
information. Finally, and perhaps worst of all from the
defense standpoint, many insurance policies that provide
coverage against defamation claims would likely not provide
coverage for unjust enrichment judgments requiring the
disgorgement of profits. In fact, it has been reported that, in
Ventura v. Kyle, the defendants' insurer disclaimed coverage
for unjust enrichment damages. The case also had First
Amendment implications that were briefed by the amici.
The arguments are interesting, but perhaps even more
notable is the novelty of this case. The media amici, in
arguing that such claims were not allowed by the common
law, noted that the only prior American case to consider the
issue was a 1949 trial court decision in New York, in which
the court found that no such action was permissible. See
Hart v. E.P. Dutton Co., 93 N.Y.S.2d 871 (Sup. Ct. 1949).
They used this dearth of case law to argue their point that
the near-complete absence of cases discussing, let alone
allowing, disgorgement of profits in connection with a
defamation claim proves that no such cause of action exists.
The 8th Circuit overturned the unjust enrichment award
in June 2016. While not approaching "American Sniper" on
the spellbinder index, the case makes interesting reading.
The court (applying Minnesota law) concluded that the
unjust enrichment claim could not stand as a matter of
law, since equitable relief could not be granted when the
available defamation claim provided plaintiff an adequate
remedy at law. The court also concluded that the elements
of an unjust enrichment claim were not proven anyway, as
Ventura did not provide evidence of an implied or quasicontract with Kyle.
The Court also noted that it appears no such remedy
exists at common law. Having disposed of the case on
these grounds, the Court did not need to reach the First
Amendment issues that may arise in a future case, although

www.chescobar.org
it is difficult to envision a case where the claim could
clear the statutory or common law hurdles under state
laws governing defamation.
The Supreme Court denied certiorari in January, so
this case could be a legal shooting star, briefly flashing
through the sky, and never seen again.

C H E S T E R C O U N T Y B A R A S S O C I AT I O N

Upcoming Events

For more details on all upcoming meetings and events,
go to: www.chescobar.org/events

November
November 1 ..................... B.U.L.L. Session;
5:30-7:30 PM
CCBA Lower Level
November 2 ..................... New Admittee Ceremony; 4-5 PM
The Chester County Justice Center;
Courtroom 1
November 3 ..................... Naturalization Ceremony
11:30-12:30 PM
The Chester County Justice Center;
Courtroom 1
November 8 ..................... CCBF Fellows Appreciation &
Recruitment Reception; 5-7 PM
at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts
Center (by invitation only)
November 9 ..................... Sip & Shred Event; 4:30-6:30 PM
at Levante Brewery
November 15 ................... Stively Inn of Court Kickoff
Meeting; 5-6:30 PM at
Side Bar & Restaurant
November 20 ................... Member Appreciation Happy Hour;
5-7 PM at Bar Av

December
December 6 ...................... B.U.L.L. Session; 5:30-7:30 PM
CCBA Lower Level
December 7 ...................... CCBA/CCBF/YLD Annual Meeting;
3:30-6 PM at the Chester County
Historic Courthouse

January
January 19 ......................... President's Dinner; 6:30-11:30 PM
at Aronimink Golf Club

New Matter | 25


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