Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

How John Goodman's High Life Came Crashing Down

A Shocking Legal Maneuver

Scott Wilson's Hyundai after the crash
Scott Wilson's Hyundai after the crash

Two months after the incident, the Wilson family brought a civil suit against John Goodman, asking for damages as high as $100 million for the wrongful death of Scott Wilson. As Goodman's criminal trial date grew nearer, Goodman and his attorneys hit upon a novel way to shield Goodman's fortune from civil penalties — Goodman legally adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend Heather Colby. Goodman made her the third beneficiary (along with his two children) of a trust worth more than $300 million. Although Goodman's lawyers insisted nothing they had done was illegal, some wondered if Colby might access the fund on Goodman's behalf — without worry that the money would be subject to recovery by the Wilson family if they were awarded a judgment in their civil case. Colby reportedly stood to receive as much as $200 million over the next 40 years. Judge Glenn Kelley, who was to preside over the civil case, called the adoption "a legal Twilight Zone."

Just weeks before opening statements were to begin in Goodman's criminal trial, ABC News reported that Goodman had reached an out-of-court settlement with the Wilson family. The details were not made public. Some analysts thought the leak was part of a defense pre-trial strategy to win sympathy for their client, but no one took public responsibility for the leak.

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