WACO, Texas, May 19 -- A Houston court has been ordered to rehear a civil lawsuit against former health spa tycoon Richard Minns for allegedly permanently disabling his ex-girlfriend in a botched murder-for-hire attempt. A Waco appeals court Thursday overturned a 1987 ruling that Minns was to pay $32 million to Barbra Piotrowski.
Criminal charges never were filed against Minns in the case. The case could go to trial before state District Judge Carolyn Garcia without Minns, 64, being present. He was deported last year after pleading guilty to passport fraud and cannot re-enter the United States without the permission of Attorney General Janet Reno, said George Bishop, Minns' attorney. 'The bottom line is he didn't get a fair trial,' Bishop said. Dick DeGuerin, an attorney representing Piotrowski, said he will file for a rehearing before the appeals court and that the opinion will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court if necessary. Writing for the appeals court, Justice Bill Vance cited nine points of error by now-retired family court Judge Bill Elliott. The errors included the lack of a pleading or proof that Minns intentionally caused Piotrowski's injuries. Vance also said there was insufficient evidence to support punitive damages and that the award was excessive, and that the court abused its discretion in refusing to admit evidence concerning Piotrowski's credibility and veracity. The 1987 decision awarded Piotrowski $18.1 million in actual damages and $14 million in punitive damages. Minns now lives in Switzerland, Bishop said. Piotrowski has been living in California. Dudley Bell of Houston and Robert Jess Anderson of Spring were convicted of hiring the men who shot Piotrowski and sentenced to 38 years in prison. Two California men -- Nathaniel Ivery and Patrick Tony Steen -- were convicted of carrying out the plot and received 35-year sentences.