Riches generated by his father's global heating and air- conditioning company have allowed John Goodman to live a luxurious life. He built a topnotch polo team, bought a 79-acre estate in Wellington, and founded the celebrity-studded International Polo Club.
Last year, Goodman hired a renowned lawyer to defend him against charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. He stayed at the Four Seasons hotel in Miami while waiting to be arrested and easily posted a $100,000 bond.
Now the multimillionaire's wealth is central to the wrongful-death suit filed by the parents of Scott Wilson, the 23-year-old who died last February after Goodman crashed into his car.
Chris Searcy, the attorney representing Wilson's mom, argued in Palm Beach Circuit Court today that Goodman is far richer than financial documents in the case suggest.
Searcy wants to know Goodman's true wealth so he can seek punitive damages that will "sting [Goodman] badly without bankrupting him."
Searcy believes the cash is hidden in various family trusts and companies, and he asked Judge Glenn Kelley to grant him access to the documentation that would prove this theory.
"We're dealing with people who don't want to tell us where all of the wealth is hidden," Searcy said. "This is as sophisticated as any system I've ever seen."
For example, in 2002, Goodman's Wellington mansion was sold to his kids' trust fund for $3.8 million. Goodman, 47, now rents the property for the bargain price of $2,000 a month. Meanwhile, he has a yacht, polo ponies, and an airplane, Searcy said in court.
In 2004, Goodman's family sold its heating and air-conditioning company, Goodman Manufacturing, for $1.4 billion. Searcy believes the polo mogul has access to roughly a fourth of his family's wealth. "The question is, can we prove it?" he said.
Goodman's attorney, Dan Bachi, insisted that the paper trail in the case gives an accurate portrayal of Goodman's riches.
"We have produced every document involving a transaction of his," Bachi told the judge. "The fact that he rents property from his children does not make that property his."
Judge Kelley did not issue a ruling on Searcy's request today. It's been nearly a year since Wilson's death, and the battle over this financial information has gone on for months. Searcy is hoping for a ruling in the next few weeks.