WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – A West Palm Beach millionaire went to extraordinary lengths to protect his assets from a pending lawsuit: he adopted his longtime girlfriend as his legal daughter.
International Polo Club Palm Beach founder John Goodman legally adopted Heather Laruso Hutchins in Miami-Dade County on October 13, according to the Palm Beach Post. Hutchins and Goodman have been dating since 2009.
The move, attorneys for Lili and William Wilson say, is an attempt to shield assets from a civil suit. The Wilsons are suing Goodman for wrongful death in connection with the February 2010 crash that killed Scott Patrick Wilson, 23. According to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office reports, Goodman ran a stop sign and hit Wilson, who was driving westbound on Lake Worth Road.
Goodman’s attorney says the legal adoption is nothing more than an attempt to protect the future financial stability of his children and his family investments.
“It has nothing to do with the lawsuit currently pending against him,” Bachi said.
Circuit Court Judge Glenn Kelley had previously ruled that money established in trusts for Goodman’s two minor children could not be considered part of his financial worth if a jury awarded damages to the Wilsons. According to the adoption papers, Hutchins is entitled to at least a third of the trusts assets as his legal daughter.
“By way of this adoption, John Goodman now effectively owns one third of the trust assets,” said William Wilson’s attorney Scott Smith said. “It cannot go unrecognized that he chose to adopt his 42-year-old adult girlfriend as opposed to a needy child.”
On the night of the crash, tests from Goodman show he had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle. The test was administered several hours after the collision.
Goodman was charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and leaving the scene of a crash. His trial begins March 6 and he could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Source: The Palm Beach Post