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An old, old story, as sudden riches furnish grounds for competing stories about what happened. The two aren’t speaking now. [Toronto Sun; many stories about disputes over lottery tickets are found at our lottery tag]


“Lawsuits involving lottery pool winnings have been common enough to create a new set of case law, said Russ Weaver, a University of Louisville law professor. A cursory Google search shows some ‘Lotto lawyers’ across the country who specialize in such disputes.” [USA Today/AZCentral]

“A Seminole County man who sued his ex-girlfriend for half of her $1 million Florida Lottery winnings went away empty-handed Tuesday, her attorney said.” [Orlando Sentinel]

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September 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 27, 2011

An Indianapolis resident says “workers at the Speedway store refused to sell him a ticket with a few minutes left before the sales cutoff.” He says he’d picked the winning numbers and filled them out on the slip they wouldn’t accept, so now he’s suing the convenience store chain for the $11.5 million jackpot. [AP/]


April 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 20, 2009

  • Boy fatally shoots stepbrother at home, mom sues school district as well as shooter’s family [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
  • Problem gambler sues Ontario lottery for C$3.5 billion [Toronto Star]
  • Cop declines training in which he’d be given Taser shock, and sues [Indianapolis Star]
  • Ultra-litigious inmate Jonathan Lee Riches scrawls new complaint linking Bernard Madoff, Britney Spears [Kevin LaCroix]
  • Just to read this update feels like an invasion of privacy: “Judge to Hear Challenge to $6M Herpes Case Award” [On Point News, earlier]
  • “Best criminal strategy: join the Spokane police” [Coyote Blog] More: Greenfield, Brayton.
  • Will mommy-bloggers be held liable for freebie product reviews? [Emily Friedman, ABC News, earlier]
  • Update: “Fifth Circuit says no bail for Paul Minor” [Freeland]


I don’t know how many times I’ve seen generic versions of this story, but this is the latest, filed by four Piqua, Ohio, workers who want a $41 million share of the $207 million lottery payout. “The four said they were out of the office and unavailable to contribute to the office pool for the Dec. 12 drawing” but allege an oral agreement that winnings would be shared whether workers happened to be around to contribute or not. (Nancy Bowman, “Piqua lottery winners sued by co-workers”. Dayton Daily News, Dec. 23).


Hoosiers who bought losing Cash Blast tickets may be eligible to claim refunds… at least if they’ve held on to tickets in the now-defunct game from the period May 2005-July 2006. (Jeremy Herb, “$20M lawsuit against Hoosier Lottery gets class-action status”, Indianapolis Star, Jul. 10).


Airline mechanic Arnim Ramdass, 52, allegedly “disconnected the phone line at home and forbade his stay-at-home wife, Donna Campbell, 48, to watch television, Campbell claims in a lawsuit. Eventually, however, she learned the truth: Ramdass, along with 16 other mechanics at Miami International Airport, had won a $19 million lottery jackpot.” (Martha Neil, “Wife Sues Husband for Share of Secret $600K Lottery Win”, ABA Journal, May 13). See Nov. 20-21, 1999 (similar case from California).


You can’t win if you don’t play: “A Dutch woman who claimed she suffered emotional damages due to not winning the lottery missed the jackpot in court too. Amsterdam District Court judges Wednesday rejected the claim of Helene de Gier, who said she was traumatized by not winning the country’s National Postcode Lottery, which she didn’t enter, while her neighbors did.” DeGier said one lucky neighbor had rubbed in his good luck by showing off a new Porsche, and claimed lottery ads had engaged in “emotional blackmail” by suggesting that non-entrants like herself might be sorry afterward. (AP/IHT, Reuters).


A major scandal has erupted in Ontario in recent weeks following reports that some lottery retailers have for years been cheating their customers out of winning tickets, instead cashing in the tickets themselves. Now the law firm of McPhadden, Samac, Merner & Barry has filed a would-be class action lawsuit on behalf of all persons who bought lottery tickets since 1975, charging that the lottery failed to exercise its responsibility to prevent cheating, and demanding C$1.1 billion including C$100 million in punitive damages.

Perhaps the most interesting question raised by the legal action is: assuming a remedy cannot be had against the rogue retailers, what is a suitable remedy against the allegedly negligent lottery authorities? According to CTV, the law firm has proposed to hold a “free lottery”, or, perhaps more precisely, a lottery that would compensate for past unfairness by enabling Ontarians to buy a ticket which would be eligible for a payoff above the usual. (Those who could prove they had played the lottery in the past would be entitled to one free ticket.) (“Class-action suit launched against lotto agency”, Mar. 28).

Details of the proposed “remedial” lottery are hazy in the CTV account, but a couple of practical difficulties immediately come to mind. Start with the assumption that a “remedial” pot would be fixed at a certain lump sum intended to punish the province for its past negligence — let’s say C$100 million — and that such a sum greatly exceeds a typical lottery pot. Since there is no upper limit to the number of tickets that purchasers could buy in pursuit of the extra-large pot, the province might in fact wind up making money on its penitential lottery, even taking into account the obligation to dispense a certain number of free single tickets to persons who could bring in the paperwork to show they were past lottery players. Alternatively, assume that the province undertakes to run a one-time penitential lottery with a higher payout than usual — say, 95 percent rather than the usual 40 or 60 percent or whatever. Again it’s possible that by stoking player interest in a much-publicized “good-odds” lottery, the authorities will come out ahead (perhaps having hooked many novices into buying their first lottery tickets).

The practical difficulties if the province is so rash as to promise a lottery with a payout of, say, 110 percent of the money put in, will be left as an exercise to the reader.


A price tag on not screening for merit: “A lawyer representing three people who sued their co-workers seeking a share of their $315 million lottery win was ordered Tuesday to pay a nearly $382,000 fine. Orange County [California] Judge Michael Brenner ordered attorney Mark H. Williams to pay the seven lottery winners after determining he pursued the lawsuits knowing the allegations lacked merit. The amount was the equivalent to legal fees incurred by the ‘Lucky Seven,’ who pooled money to buy the winning Mega Millions multistate lottery ticket, said defense attorney Larry S. Zeman.” Williams, of Long Beach, Calif., represented “three co-workers who claimed they deserved a share of the jackpot because of an oral agreement that everyone would be included whenever they pooled their money to buy tickets”. (AP/Contra Costa Times, Mar. 20).

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From Santa Ana, Calif., an old reliable class of story, the secret sharer who pops up to claim a share after a big lottery win:

Seven workers at a California medical lab who shared a $315 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot are being sued by a co-worker.

Jonathan De La Cruz said he wants a share of the pot.

In his lawsuit, he claims he had always been a part of the group when they bought lottery tickets before, but that he was off work the day they bought the winning ticket.

He said the group had an oral agreement that everyone would be included when they pooled their money to buy tickets.

The winners said his claims are nonsense.

They said it was the first time they had bought tickets together and that it had been almost a year since any of them had pooled money with De La Cruz for tickets.

They also said that when they won, he didn’t claim that he deserved a cut.

The winners will each receive about $25 million before taxes.

(“Co-Worker Sues For Share Of Big Lottery Jackpot”,, Dec. 15).

Lottery fine print

by Walter Olson on January 13, 2005

A judge has rejected a lawsuit by 94-year-old lottery winner Louise Outing of Everett, Mass., seeking to force the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to suspend its rule that lottery jackpots get paid out in installments over 20 years; she wanted it paid as a lump sum in view of her advanced age. The lottery’s executive director pointed out that the rule is printed on the back of all bet slips. A judge also noted that there are companies that will pay lottery winners a lump sum in exchange for the right to collect the twenty-year stream of payouts. (David Weber, “Judge nixes quick cash for elder lotto winner”, Boston Herald, Dec. 31; “Lottery winner, 94, loses in court”, AP/Boston Globe, Dec. 31; “Massachusetts Judge Denies Demand for Lump-Sum Lottery Prize Payment”, Dec. 30). The maxim Brian J. Noggle derives from the woman’s unsuccessful suit, in a post at his blog: “Rules are made to be litigated”. More lottery litigation: Mar. 26, 2004, May 20-21, 2002, and, a bit farther afield, Jun. 28, 2004.

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It’s said to afflict many lottery winners, resulting in impulsive spending and social isolation. What about lawsuit winners? I raise the question on (Jul. 23), where my dialogue with Michael Krauss on gun suits and federalism is also now complete.

Lawyer of the week? Once-obscure Ohio attorney Sheldon Starke seemed to revel in the sudden worldwide publicity as he represented Elecia Battle in her claim to be the true winner of a $162 million lottery jackpot — until her story fell apart and she turned out to have a rap sheet. “A Cuyahoga County judge has threatened to find Starke in contempt of court after seeing Starke’s animated defense of Battle this week on television — after Starke had said he couldn’t come to court because of an injured back. And Starke can’t seem to avoid questions about how he handled Battle’s incredible claim on the Mega Millions lottery — about how he maintained his belief in Battle’s story when just about nobody else did. ‘I felt like a fool,’ said Starke, who insists he handled the case properly. ‘If there was one person that was damaged this week, it was me.'” (Scott Hiaasen and Jesse Tinsley, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan. 10)