ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Breach of an Implied Contract to Share Lottery Winnings

Two years ago, we reported on a case involving two sisters who feuded over whether a purported agreement to share gambling winnings covered one sister's lottery winnings.  At the time, we wondered why humans can't be more like monkeys, who it seems, have an innate sense of the duty to share

Today's New York Times brings further evidence that, as our higher faculties have evolved, we have not yet reached monkey levels when it comes to fair play in the distribution of lottery winnings.  Today's Times provides the story of a construction worker who allegedly bought lottery tickets on behalf of five co-workers.  When one of defendant's tickets turned out to be worth $38.5 million, he pocketed the winnings (about $17.5 million after taxes) and quit his job, claiming a foot injury.  Defendant claimed that the winning ticket was one that he bought with his own money.  A jury disagreed and ordered the defendant to share the winnings.  Now, they all get to fight with the IRS to determine the proper taxation rate. 

The Times report includes the following telling comment:

“I play by myself because I don’t trust people,” said the man, who would give his name only as Sean, explaining that he regularly played Mega Millions and other games. “Am I shocked he tried to keep the money for himself? No. It’s human nature."

Sean, you should find yourself some monkeys with whom you could play Mega Millions.


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