Anna Nicole Smith’s estate is not entitled to $300 million the deceased actress had claimed was intended as a gift from her oil tycoon husband, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
Smith, a former Playboy pinup and stripper, fought for more than a decade with a son of J. Howard Marshall over a fortune estimated as much as $1.6 billion.
It was a court battle that outlived the chief combatants. Marshall’s son, E. Pierce Marshall, died in 2006, and Smith died in 2007 from what a Florida medical examiner ruled was “acute combined drug intoxication.” Her 3-year-old daughter is her sole heir.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals panel in California to reconsider its ruling against Smith, whose real name was Vickie Lynn Marshall.
The judges’ newest decision pointed to a Texas jury’s verdict that the money was not a gift as the chief reason for denying Smith’s claim.
“The district court should have afforded preclusive effect to the Texas probate court’s factual findings and relevant legal conclusions,” Friday’s ruling said.
Smith‘s attorneys claim that apart from the will and trust, Howard Marshall promised his young wife a share of assets earned while they were married.
The Yale-educated businessman was 89 in 1994, when he married the 26-year-old Texan. They had met a few years earlier at a strip club where she worked. Marshall died a year after the wedding, but Smith, according to legal briefs filed with the court, was not given a share of the estate in the will or separate trust.
Smith claimed that Marshall’s son “used fraud and undue influence” in his father’s last months to have him leave Smith out of his will. State and federal courts have disagreed over whether Smith should receive any part of the estate.