HOUSTON A Houston millionaire has settled a wrongful-death lawsuit, and that could mean less or even no prison time for him if he s found guilty in his criminal case.

John Goodman hit and killed a man while allegedly driving drunk in Florida two years ago. The criminal trial is under way in Florida. During opening statements, prosecutors said the Houston millionaire was drunk when he sped through a stop sign in West Palm Beach Florida and slammed into Scott Wilson s car, pushing it into a canal, where Wilson drowned.

Defense attorneys argued that Goodman s Bentley malfunctioned. They said after blacking out for some time, the heir to a heating and air conditioning fortune went looking for help and found alcohol in a nearby barn, to ease the pain.

At the time of this accident, he was not drunk, he was not impaired, and he was not intoxicated, said Roy Black, Goodman s lawyer.

The criminal trial comes just days after a civil suit was settled. Its terms are confidential, but sources say Goodman owes the 23-year-old victim s family upwards of $10 million.   And while the outcome could appear as an admission of guilt, KHOU 11 News legal analyst Gerald Treece said it could actually work in Goodman s favor.

Jurors like people to take responsibility, he said. He s already agreed to pay the money, why should we also put him in jail?

If convicted, Goodman could face up to 30 years in prison. And, if he is ordered to pay restitution, Treece said there is a good chance that it won t be nearly the same amount Goodman has agreed to pay as part of the civil settlement.

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