Polo Club Founder Adopts His Own Girlfriend Amid Wrongful-Death Lawsuit

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A Florida polo club founder is being sued over his involvement in a 2010 drunk-driving accident that killed a 23-year-old man. He’s now making an unusual legal move in the wrongful-death lawsuit brought against him by the man’s family — he adopted his own girlfriend.

The International Polo Club Palm Beach founder, John Goodman, adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Laruso Hutchins, as his daughter last October, the Palm Beach Post reports. Goodman, 48, was charged with DUI manslaughter in the traffic-accident death of Scott Patrick Wilson in 2010, and now the man’s parents are suing him.

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The Florida newspaper reports that the Wilson family attorneys have deemed the adoption as a stunt to protect Goodman’s wealth from the suit. “[Circuit Judge Glenn] Kelley had previously ruled that the trust set up for Goodman’s two minor children could not be considered as part of Goodman’s financial worth if a jury awarded damages to the Wilsons,” the Post reported. Therefore, if Hutchins’ name is in the trust, she would be entitled to one third of it — and since she’s 42, she could technically immediately get the money, and perhaps share it with her boyfriend. The judge wrote that the adoption “take[s] the Court into a legal twilight zone.”

Months before the adoption, an attorney for Scott Wilson’s father told the Post that, “Goodman’s attorneys are trying to convince us that he is worth much less than he is actually worth.” ABC News reports that a probate court must decide if the adoption is legitimate; the Wilson family has filed an emergency action.

The Polo Club founder’s attorney said that the move “has nothing to do with the lawsuit currently pending against him” and that it “was done for estate-planning purposes and to ensure protection of both his and her minor children and the stability of all the family investments,” according to the New York Post.