WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- A Palm Beach County judge has agreed to let attorneys for the family of Scott Wilson appraise the value of the International Polo Club of Palm Beach but rejected other requests that would have let them better assess John Goodman's financial wealth ahead of a civil trial expected to begin in late March.
Judge Glenn Kelley rejected a request to stop the sale and freeze the assets of a more than 1,000-acre property Goodman owns in a rural area west of Houston, Texas.
Kelley also said jurors in a civil trial would not be able to consider the total worth of a trust Goodman established for his two young children.
Your motion troubled me," Kelley told attorney Scott Smith. "I don't have jurisdiction [over the trust]."
The relevance of the trust, which Goodman established in 1991, came into question by Wilson family attorneys after court documents revealed that Goodman had adopted Heather Hutchins, his adult girlfriend.
Hutchins, according to court documents, is entitled to one third of the trust's assets, which is estimated to be worth more than $300 million, Kelley said.
Smith argued a sale of the Texas property, which is owned by the trust, would limit the amount of damages Goodman would have to pay the Wilsons should he be found liable for their son's death.
"Heather Hutchins has a one third interest of the trust assets so we'll be able to present that to the jury during the punitive phase so the value of those properties are important and relevant to the issues," Smith said after the hearing.
Chris Searcy, an attorney for Lili Wilson, Scott Wilson's mother, said an appraisal of the polo club Goodman founded, which is also owned by the trust, was critical.
"It's been our position all along that part of what the dynasty trust of the Goodmans has done is undervalued the property so that it could be transferred with very little tax impact and therefore we want to ascertain the true value of the property," he said.
Daniel Bachi, an attorney for Goodman, did not comment after the hearing.
Goodman is accused of killing 23-year-old Scott Wilson in a drunk driving crash two years ago.
He faces criminal charges and a civil suit.
Jury selection in his criminal trial is expected to begin on March 6th.
His civil trial is expected to begin on March 27th.
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