Polo Tycoon Cannot Adopt Adult Girlfriend, Florida Court Says
(MIAMI) -- A Miami appeals court Wednesday reversed a ruling that allowed Florida polo tycoon John Goodman to adopt his longtime adult girlfriend.
Florida's Third District Court of Appeals Senior Judge Alan R. Schwartz wrote that the adoption of a "paramour" or lover was "so contrary to the beneficent purposes of such an action" that it could not be confirmed by the court, according to court documents.
Goodman, a 49-year-old multimillionaire who founded the International Polo Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., made headlines when he adopted his girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, 42, in an attempt to preserve part of his fortune for her while negotiating a civil suit settlement.
Carroll Goodman, John Goodman's ex-wife and the mother of their two children, filed the appeal, according to court records.
Attorneys for Goodman and his ex-wife could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2011, a trial court in Palm Beach County approved the adoption. As a result, Hutchins was recognized as another one of Goodman's "children" under the trust fund that had been set up by him and Carroll Goodman for their biological children in 1991.
According to court documents, John Goodman and Hutchins entered an adoption agreement contract that paid her $5 million immediately at the signing of agreement, another $3 million by the end of 2012, and lifetime payments valued at an estimated $8.75 million -- a total of $16.75 million over time. The agreement also allowed Hutchins to request additional amounts from the trust.
While the adoption earned national attention, Goodman found himself in the spotlight again in May 2012 when he was sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined $10,000 for killing a man in a drunk-driving crash.
On May 11, 2012, a Florida judge said in court that Goodman "left to save himself" after his Bentley slammed into 23-year-old Scott Wilson's Hyundai and sent the car into a nearby canal in Wellington, Fla., in the February 2010 accident.
Wilson, an engineering graduate, was strapped into the driver's seat and drowned.
At the time of the court case, Judge Jeffrey Colbath granted that Goodman could be released on a $7 million bond pending his appeal. As conditions for his release, he was placed under house arrest and monitored 24 hours a day with a GPS device, and could not apply for a new passport. His driver's license was also permanently revoked.
A Florida jury found Goodman guilty of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide last March.
Goodman claimed in court that his $200,000 car malfunctioned and lurched forward. He has also denied being drunk at the time of the crash that killed Wilson, although other testimony has contradicted him and his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit three hours after the crash.
Prosecutors said Goodman left the scene of the accident without calling 911.
"Scott Wilson's death was senseless," Colbath told the court at the time.
"His conduct from the moment the crash happened to the time he came to be in the custody of law enforcement was to save himself," the judge said. "It wasn't to go get help and it wasn't because he was disoriented. It was because he wanted to figure out a way to save himself. He had an opportunity to try to save Mr. Wilson."
"I believe what the jury believed -- that he knew he pushed [Wilson's] car in the canal. He knew there was someone in the canal and he left to try to save himself," Colbath said.
Last April, court documents revealed that Goodman agreed to a $46 million payment to Wilson's parents, Lili and William Wilson. Each received $23 million in the settlement.
In his decision Wednesday to void Goodman's adult adoption of Hutchins, Schwartz cited the crash, the trust fund John and Carroll Goodman had set up in 1991 for their two biological children, and that Goodman gave his ex-wife "no notice of the adoption proceeding."
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