(I initially posted this news story in January 2012. Three woman all claiming the same $1 million dollar scratch-off ticket. After several days of testimony, the judge finally decided who really owns the ticket)
An Arkansas woman who cashed a $1 million lottery ticket has to give up the winnings (at least for now) to a woman who threw away the ticket after she bought it, according to a judge’s ruling Tuesday.
The judge decided that Sharon Duncan was entitled to the prize money, not Sharon Jones, who claimed the prize money after she took the ticket from a trash can of discarded lottery tickets at a convenience store in Beebe, a city about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock.
Sharon Jones’ attorney says he plans to appeal. Jones testified that she already spent some of the money on a new truck and cash gifts to her children.
Her attorney argued that Sharon Duncan threw away the ticket after the read-out on a ticket scanner said, “Sorry. Not a winner.” He says, people shouldn’t be allowed to throw items away and then say, “‘ooh, I want to un-abandon it.’”
“We’d have garage-sale law all over the place,” Jones’ attorney said. “It became trash when someone threw it away.”
Judge Thomas Hughes, however, said Sharon Jones never met the burden of proof that Sharon Duncan abandoned her right to claim $1 million.
“The $1 million was never found money,” Hughes said.
Early Tuesday, Jones testified that she gathered a handful of discarded tickets from the trash can — as she had done many times before — and said there was no sign alerting customers not to take tickets.
That contradicted Super 1 Stop store manager Lisa Petriches’ earlier testimony that she had taped a sign that read “Do not take” on the can. But a former store clerk testified that Petriches posted the sign only after Jones claimed the prize.
Petriches brought the lawsuit against Sharon Jones. During their first court hearing, the judge said that Sharon Duncan may be the true owner of the ticket — that’s when Duncan joined the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Judge Hughes ruled that store manger Lisa Petriches and the store’s owner, Louie Dajani — whose corporation, Summer One LLC, joined the suit — weren’t entitled to anything.
Judge Hughes instructed the winning side to write the judgment, and it will become official once he signs it. Sharon Jones’ attorneys will then have 30 days to file an appeal.
Hughes found that the evidence weighed Sharon Duncan’s favor that she bought the winning ticket, even though lottery records and store security video didn’t synch up to the precise timing of the purchase.
Duncan’s attorney argued that she simply made a mistake by throwing away a $1 million ticket and that the only right she willingly gave up was to enter the ticket for the possibility of a secondary prize.