Millionaire tries to thwart wrongful death suit by expoloiting legal loophole

Here’s a story that is sure to get Philadelphia readers riled up. In Florida, a multimillionaire who caused the death of a young college student in a drunk-driving car accident is apparently seeking to foil the parents’ wrongful death suit by manipulating a loophole in trust law.

The 48-year-old man was driving drunk February 2010 when he ran a stop sign in his Bentley and collided with the college student, killing him. The student’s parents have now filed a wrongful death suit, which is set to begin soon, and the man also faces criminal charges in connection with the incident.

Here’s where the plot thickens. The man is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but he recently did something that many people are seeing as underhanded. The man adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend so that way, she counts as a “child” and can access the funds in the trust.

The trust fund could not be used to satisfy a judgment against the man if the college student’s parents win their lawsuit, since it can no longer be considered his money. But if the man’s girlfriend can access the money, isn’t she basically just his proxy?

The family has cried foul and a judge said the man’s adoption means the case “borders on the surreal.” However, at this point, it seems like a perfectly legal maneuver.

What do you think about all this? Do you think it is a clever exploitation of a loophole that lawmakers should have been smart enough to close years ago, or do you think he is making a mockery of our legal system?

Source: ABC News, “Polo Club Found Adopts Girlfriend Amid Civil Suit Over DUI Death,” Christina Ng, Feb. 2, 2012

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