There are Rich People Problems, and there are Rich People Solutions.
Credit Houston-bred multimillionaire polo patron John Goodman, the subject of a 1998 Press feature, not to mention the allegedly drunk-driving killer of Florida college student Scott Wilson in 2010, with coming up with one of the more fiendishly devious examples of the latter.
Namely, quite possibly to get out of paying some or most of what he fears will be a stiff civil penalty in a pending wrongful-death lawsuit, he has adopted Heather Laruso Hutchins, his 42-year-old girlfriend. (Hutchins is also known as Heather Colby.)
In assessing potential damages, West Palm Beach Judge Glenn Kelley ruled in October that the trust for Goodman's two minor children was off the table. The Wilsons' lawyer has appealed that ruling.
Here's what the Palm Beach Post has to say about the matter:
According to the adoption papers, Hutchins is immediately entitled to at least a third of the trust's assets as his legal daughter since she is over the age of 35.
In a deposition taken in the lawsuit last May, Hutchins told attorneys she started dating Goodman in 2009.
William Wilson's attorney, Scott Smith, said Goodman benefits from the trust and is using it to try to shield assets. The attorney for Lili Wilson, Chris Searcy, argued in a motion that by adopting Hutchins, Goodman can now direct her to remove up to a third of the trust.
"It cannot go unrecognized that he chose to adopt his 42-year-old adult girlfriend as opposed to a needy child," added Smith.
The maneuver has apparently stunned Judge Kelley. In a court order, Kelley wrote that Goodman's ploy "border[s] on the surreal and take[s] the Court into a legal twilight zone."
"The Defendant has effectively diverted a significant portion of the assets of the children's trust to a person with whom he is intimately involved at a time when his personal assets are largely at risk in this case," Kelley also opined.
Let's back up a bit and re-examine this whole tragic and tawdry affair....
Two years ago this month, in the wee hours after a public drinking session at the Player's Club bar, Goodman, heir to the vast Goodman HVAC fortune and owner of a South Florida polo club, smashed his Bentley into a Hyundai driven by 23-year-old engineering student Scott Wilson. Impact from the high-speed collision sent the Hyundai flying into a canal, where it sank, drowning the unconscious Wilson. Goodman climbed out of his totaled Bentley and fled the scene on foot, and over an hour after the crash, his BAC was .177, double the Florida limit.
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Hair Balls later dug up Goodman's divorce papers, in which his ex-wife asked that he be monitored for cocaine use, and reports later surfaced that the wreck might have occurred while he was on a late-night white-lady mission.
Goodman's criminal trial is slated to begin next month. He faces charges that could send him to prison for 30 years. The Wilson family has reportedly reached a confidential settlement with the Player's Club, and they are seeking to be awarded millions in cash and Goodman's ownership of a 78-acre South Florida horse farm.