Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 8:04 p.m. Thursday, April 19, 2012
Posted: 6:09 p.m. Thursday, April 19, 2012
WEST PALM BEACH — The number 23 looms large in the lives of Lili and William Wilson.
It was the age of their son, Scott, when he drowned after his car was hit by a Bentley driven by drunken Wellington polo mogul John Goodman and shoved into a canal.
It is also the amount – in millions – that each of the Wilsons agreed to accept for losing their son in the February 2010 alcohol-fueled crash on a dark road in Wellington’s famed horse country.
The $46 million settlement that brought an abrupt end to lawsuits the Wilsons filed against Goodman was revealed in court papers filed this week. Goodman’s attorneys divulged the eye-popping amount as part of their efforts to get the 48-year-old sprung from jail while he appeals his conviction on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide.
Christian Searcy, who represents Lili Wilson in her civil lawsuit, confirmed the settlement.
But, he scoffed at the notion that the settlement could persuade Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath to release Goodman while his attorneys try to prove that jurors who convicted their client last month violated court rules or that prosecutors and the media improperly fueled a “wealth bias” against him.
“I would think a desperate man grabs at any straw,” Searcy said. However, he said, the settlement didn’t come from the vast holdings of the heir to a Texas heating and air conditioning empire. Instead, he said, it came from insurance companies.
“I think it might have more sway if it came from Mr. Goodman,” Searcy said.
Further, he said, not all of the money was paid by Goodman’s insurer. The Player’s Club, a popular equestrian hangout where Goodman tossed back a vodka cocktail and shots of tequila before the crash, agreed to pay $6 million to settle claims against it.
Searcy declined to say how much attorneys were paid. According to Florida Bar rules, attorneys can receive a maximum 20 percent of any settlement over $3 million without court approval.
Attorney Scott Smith, who represents William Wilson, declined comment on the settlement that has been the source of speculation for weeks. Since rumors of the settlement surfaced on the eve of Goodman’s criminal trial, Smith has said he wants to wheels of justice to turn without interference. He said he won’t comment until after Goodman is sentenced April 30.
However, Smith questioned whether Goodman’s famed attorney Roy Black may have violated a confidentiality agreement with The Player’s Club by revealing the settlement amount.
“Mr. Goodman’s attorneys disclosing the amounts of a confidential settlement is not appreciated and I intend to call them tomorrow morning regarding the same,” he said Thursday evening.
While the settlement with Goodman was not confidential, the settlement with The Player’s Club was, he said. The club could take action against Goodman or his attorneys for violating the agreement, Smith said.
Searcy indicated that Lili Wilson may want to use the settlement as a tribute to her son, who was a recent University of Central Florida engineering school graduate when he died while driving home for his sister’s birthday.
He also declined to say whether the Wilsons had asked for $1 million for each year of their promising son’s life.
“You’re very insightful. That’s all I can say,” Searcy said.