An appeals court has rejected the claim of a man who insists that the late eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes left him money in a handwritten will as thanks for rescuing Hughes from being stranded on a highway on a cold night.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Friday rejected the claim that Melvin Dummar is a beneficiary of Hughes' estate and should be awarded one-sixteenth of Hughes' fortune, which Dummar said was outlined in a holographic will.

Dummar, who now lives near Brigham City, filed a federal lawsuit in 2006 alleging that a relative of Hughes and a now-dead executive in the holding company that handles Hughes' money had engineered false testimony to guarantee that the holographic will would not be recognized by the courts. Both men denied any wrongdoing. However, Dummar said he had uncovered new information about what he termed misconduct in a trial regarding the will.

Dummar's lawsuit was dismissed last year by U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld that decision.

Dummar, 62, to this day insists that in 1967 he was driving on U.S. Highway 95 in rural Nevada on a cold night, stopped to relieve himself and found a bloodied man lying in the road. Afraid the man might die, Dummar gave him a ride to Las Vegas, and the mysterious man, who identified himself as Hughes, said he would never forget Dummar's kindness.

The holographic will that came to light in 1976 stated that Hughes wanted his fortune to go to to several organizations and people, along with one-sixteenth for Dummar (about $156 million) and another sixteenth to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dummar's story gained worldwide attention in various books and the 1980 Academy Award-winning film "Melvin and Howard," which starred Jason Robards as Hughes and Paul Le Mat as Dummar.


E-mail: lindat@desnews.com