A Florida polo club founder has adopted his long-term adult girlfriend in a bizarre measure to protect his finances in a court case.
John Goodman is facing a civil trial in the US over the death of 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson, who died after Goodman allegedly ran a stop sign and hit his car on February 12, 2010, court documents said.
Judge Glenn Kelley previously ruled that a trust set up for Goodman's two children could not be considered part of his financial worth if a jury awarded damages to Wilson's family, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
Goodman, the founder of the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, has since adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend Heather Laruso Hutchins, in a move Judge Kelley said took the court into a legal "twilight zone".
Adoption papers showed that Goodman adopted Hutchins as his legal daughter on October 13 and she was now entitled to a third of the trust as she was over the age of 35.
Attorneys for the Wilson family argued that Goodman himself now benefited from the trust and that he could direct her to remove her share.
"By way of this adoption, John Goodman now effectively owns one third of the trust assets," attorney Scott Smith said.
"It cannot go unrecognised that he chose to adopt his 42-year-old adult girlfriend as opposed to a needy child."
Goodman's civil attorney, Dan Bachi, said the adoption ensured the stability of his family and their investments.
"It has nothing to do with the lawsuit currently pending against him," Mr Bachi said.
Judge Kelley said the court could not ignore the practical impact of the adoption.
"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."
The civil trial is set to begin on March 27.
Goodman also faces a criminal trial on charges of manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash.
The Florida paper reported that tests taken several hours after the crash found Goodman had a blood alcohol limit more than double the legal driving limit.
He could face up to 30 years in prison.