It’s normally pretty easy to determine winners and losers in a lottery. Members of the former group come forward with the prized tickets, and members of the latter lot are never heard from again. Barring some kind of theft, it’s all remarkably clear, but apparently, nothing in Bebbe, Arkansas (population 7000+) is that easy.
Last July, a small convenience store in the tiny town dispensed a scratch-off worth one million dollars. Ownership of the ticket passed to different parties within hours, and now three pissed off Southerners are fighting it out in court. Each woman is convinced she’s owed one million dollars, and no one seems able to agree on who’s right.
Most are pretty comfortable saying Sharon Duncan was the original purchaser of the ticket. She paid twenty dollars, scratched off the boxes and mistakenly decided it was a loser. On her way out of the store, she tossed the ticket in a trash can. Shortly thereafter, Sharon Jones (yes, another Sharon) entered the same store and riffled through the trash can looking for lottery tickets. In Arkansas, you can trade in the losers for small prizes, and the unemployed grandmother was collecting them to get a soccer ball for her grandson. Later that night, she got on her computer to add the ticket to her database and realized not all the numbers were scratched off. Her husband quickly did so and discovered it was a winner. He went back to the convenience store, verified he was correct and headed to the lottery office.
After a thorough investigation in which Jones admitted she took the ticket out of the trash, she and her husband were given more than six hundred thousand dollars (after taxes). They quickly spent one hundred and seventy thousand on paying off credit card debt and gifts for their children, but once the convenience store manager Lisa Petriches heard about what happened, she filed a lawsuit claiming the trash legally belonged to her. Since Jones didn’t have permission to take the ticket, possession should have fallen to whoever was on duty, in this case, her.
A few months later, Sharon Duncan realized she was probably the original buyer, and when footage confirmed it, she too filed a lawsuit. She claims she only threw it away because the automated machine told her it was a loser. The state lottery board flatly denied there’s any truth to her broken machine allegation, but nonetheless, she moved forward with her lawsuit.
Last week, the case finally came before a judge, and he ruled in da-da-da Sharon Duncan’s favor. He argued that while she gave up physically possession of the ticket, she never gave up the money she was entitled to by purchasing the ticket in the first place. Not surprisingly, according to MSNBC, all parties involved have vowed to continue the legal fight, but if the most recent ruling holds, Jones will likely be forced to pay back all of the money including what she already spent, which will pose a problem considering both she and her husband are unemployed.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, if the case drags on much longer, they’ll all have spent more money than the lottery ticket was even worth. What a steep price to try and prove you're right.