Bad Fairy Tale – The Story Behind Anna Nicole Smith’s Lawsuit

Playboy model and reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith’s estate lost its final bid to obtain approximately $44 million from the estate of her late husband, Texas billionaire J. Howard Marshall, Monday.

The story of Anna Nicole Smith and her marriage to Marshall is a story straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales…or maybe Pretty Woman. In 1991, a very young and beautiful Anna Nicole Smith was performing as a dancer in a Houston strip club, where she met Marshall, the ultra-wealthy (and very old) oil tycoon. Smith was a ninth-grade dropout, but Marshall began paying her $4,000 per month salary for “consulting.” He also showered her with lavish gifts, including cars and a 15-acre ranch outside of Houston over the next two years, asking her several times to marry him.

By 1994, Anna Nicole had divorced her husband and married Marshall. She was 26, and Marshall was 89.

Of course, many believed, despite Smith’s protests, that she had married Marshall for money. In fact, Marshall’s nurse said that money was the only thing Anna was interested in, claiming that Marshall would try to explain to Smith that, although he was wealthy, there wasn’t all sorts of cash lying around for her disposal. Said the nurse about the couples frequent money arguments: “I could hear her screaming and telling him he had to send her the money.”

True love...or pure greed?

But Smith maintained that she loved Marshall, and Marshall himself assured everyone that he “adored” his new wife.

Thirteen months into the marriage, Marshall died, at age 90. Smith was apparently unaware that all of Marshall’s money was tied up into a trust controlled by one of Marshall’s sons, E. Pierce Marshall, who had never cared for his father’s taste in women (Smith was the second stripper the tycoon had married). Smith immediately began insisting that J. Howard Marshall had promised her half of his estate and Marshall’s son, of course, disagreed. Anna Nicole Smith continued to claim that her husband had meant to leave her at least $300 million above and beyond all the gifts she had been given…even though a Houston jury said Marshall was mentally fit and under no undue pressure when he wrote the will that completely excluded his young bride.

And so began the 20-year lawsuit that would outlast even the life of Anna Nicole Smith, who died in 2007 at age 39, of an accidental overdose after the death of her son, Daniel and the birth of her daughter, Dannielynn. Howard K. Stern, lawyer and executor of Anna Nicole Smith’s estate, continued the legal battle against Marshall’s son for a chunk of the late J. Howard’s estate for Dannielynn, Smith’s only surviving child.

Dannielynn, daughter of Anna Nicole Smith

But on Monday, the case has finally come to a close, stopped by U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, who denied a request from the estate of Anna Nicole Smith to sanction the estate of Marshall’s son, E. Pierce. The judge claimed:

“Time spent litigating the relationship between Vickie Lynn and J. Howard has extended for nearly five times the length of their relationship and nearly twenty times the length of their marriage. It is neither reasonable nor practical to go forward.”

(Vickie Lynn was Anna Nicole Smith’s legal name.)

The judge continued, quoting from Charles Dickens’s Bleak House: “The American taxpayer has supported the burden of this litigation for many years, and it is time for this suit to no longer ‘drag its weary length before the Court.'”

The case is closed, but the fascination with Anna Nicole Smith and her brief life linger. Not even Hollywood could top the story. Beautiful but poor young woman marries rich older man; old man dies, and the young widow is left penniless, beginning a battle between her and her deceased husband’s son. The only question is – was Anna Nicole Smith the wronged, impoverished princess, or was she the wicked step-mother?

[Images via New York Daily, The Daily Mail and missta.com]