Friday, March 8, 2002
SANTA ANA, CALIF. A federal judge awarded former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith more than $88 million in damages Thursday in the latest ruling in a bitter legal fight over the estate of her late husband, Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II.
U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter ruled Thursday that Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall, had interfered with Smith's attempt to get part of her late husband's oil fortune, estimated at hundreds of million of dollars.
"The evidence of willfulness, maliciousness and fraud is overwhelming," Carter wrote.
He found that E. Pierce Marshall and others spied on the couple and controlled his father's access to money to deny Smith the sums she was promised.
E. Pierce Marshall released a statement saying he would appeal and that his father "would be appalled that the district court continued to ignore his clearly stated wishes."
Thursday's ruling came after E. Pierce Marshall challenged a previous federal bankruptcy court decision that awarded Smith $475 million of his father's money.
Smith, 33, has fought lengthy court battles in California and Texas over the fortune of her late husband, who died at age 90 in August 1995, 14 months after they wed.
The former Playboy Playmate, whose real name is Vickie Lynn Marshall, met her husband in 1991 when she was working as a stripper. The couple married three years later when she was 26 and he was 89.
Before his death, his estate went into a trust that divided his fortune among charities, a foundation, his son and other individuals, but gave nothing to Smith. She sued E. Pierce Marshall to get part of it.
Carter's ruling said Smith had a reasonable expectation that she would receive a portion of her husband's estate and that she would receive it without interference.
"J. Howard made numerous promises to Vickie that she would receive half of what he owned," Carter said in his ruling.
He said Smith was entitled to $44.3 million in punitive damages and the same in compensatory damages against E. Pierce Marshall, who controls the trust created by his father.
"This is a complete victory for my client, and I think it's a victory for a husband's love for his wife," said Smith's attorney, Philip Boesch.
He said his client "was subjected to the worst kind of legal maneuvering by her son-in-law."
Marshall and Smith were absent when the ruling was issued.
A year ago, a Texas jury concluded Smith had no right to any money.