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Stranger than fiction: Houston A/C heir/polo king John Goodman legally adopts his girlfriend

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In happier days, Memo Gracida, left, pours champagne over the head of team mate John Goodman after their team Isla Carroll defeated White Birch to win the 100th US Open Polo Championship at the International Polo Club in Wellington, Fla., in April, 2004. Photo by © Bob Shanley/Zuma Press

What's a multimillionaire with serious legal issues and a fortune at stake to do when the family of his drunk driving victim files an explosive civil suit? If you are John Goodman, the answer is apparently "legally adopt your girlfriend."

Goodman is a Houston native and heir to the late Harold Goodman, who founded Goodman Manufacturing, the second-biggest producer of air conditioning units in the country. He's also the founder of the Palm Beach International Polo Club and lives in neighboring Wellington, Fla.

 Charges against Goodman for vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and failure to render aid are still pending (the case is so notorious in Palm Beach that his lawyers just filed a request for a change of venue). 

In February 2010 Goodman made headlines when he caused an accident while allegedly driving drunk. Investigators say Goodman was driving at twice the posted speed limit and sped through a stop sign before hitting a car driven by 23-year-old Scott Wilson.

Wilson's car landed upside-down in a canal and the engineering graduate drowned. Goodman's blood alcohol level was tested at .177. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

Charges against Goodman for vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and failure to render aid are still pending (the case is so notorious in Palm Beach that his lawyers just filed a request for a change of venue) and now Wilson's family has also filed a civil suit for damages which could potentially run to more than $100 million.

In an unusual move that seems an attempt to shield some of his trust fund wealth from a potential civil verdict, Goodman has legally adopted his current girlfriend, 42-year-old Heather Hutchins. According to CBS 12 in Florida, by naming Hutchins as his child and heir, she is immediately eligible to one-third of his estate as she is over the trust maturation age of 35. Goodman has two other children (who live in Houston) but both of them are under 35.

The judge in the case wrote that "the events border on the surreal and take the court into a legal twilight zone." Strangely, adult adoption has been used before to benefit relationship partners, particularly by gay couples who can't legally marry or pass on their wealth without significant tax barriers.

The most famous case of an adult adopting a girlfriend for estate purposes is when Olive Watson, daughter of IBM founder Thomas Watson, legally adopted her lesbian partner Patricia Spado in 1991. The couple broke up a year after the adoption, but once Thomas Watson and his wife passed away, Spado claimed that she was entitled to a share in the estate as his legal grandchild. The Maine Supreme Court declared the adoption legal in 2009, but a probate court has declared that since Watson was not aware of the adoption at the time of his death, she should not inherit, but an appeal is still pending.

I'm no expert, but isn't having a sexual relationship with your adopted child considered incest? And isn't incest illegal in most places outside of Appalachia?

But here's the real question: How many millions would someone have to offer you to make your sexual partner legally your child?

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