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Dividing the Spoils or Spoiling for a Fight: Disputed Lottery Winnings
Lottery pool participants must act as quickly as possible to ensure that illegally retained lottery proceeds can be located and kept secure until justice can be served against the ticket buyer.

Recent news that a Baltimore woman is embroiled in a dispute with her McDonald’s co-workers over the recent Mega Millions lottery brings to light a few important legal issues that are common to other types of civil litigation. The woman is accused of trying to solely claim a share of the $656 million jackpot with other announced winners from Maryland, Illinois and Kansas.

Everyone understands the appeal of banding together with a group of friends or colleagues to broaden your chances of winning millions of dollars in a state lottery. Unfortunately, these arrangements are usually very casual, and the promise of an unexpected windfall can bring out the worst in a person entrusted with buying the tickets.

Acting Quickly to Get an Injunction and Freeze Assets

A recent scam in New Jersey led five construction workers to sue a fellow crew member whom they say defrauded their weekly lottery pool after cashing in a Mega Millions ticket for $24 million. While he claimed that he had purchased the ticket for himself, a Superior Court jury disagreed and awarded $20 million to the plaintiffs.

In that case, quick action by the co-workers’ attorney resulted in a court order to freeze the assets until the legal process could unfold. When multiple people have been cheated out of funds by the same party, their collective allegations can carry significant weight in the court’s decision to allow a lawsuit to proceed. However, they must act as quickly as possible to ensure that illegally retained lottery proceeds can be located and kept secure until justice can be served.

Legal action can cut both ways: a Florida woman who had played the weekly state lottery with friends for nearly a decade sued when she was left out after not being present the week they all anted up for a winning ticket. Lottery winnings are not the only subject of controversy: disputed casino winnings and other valuable prizes can form the basis of a legal action when participants disagree over distribution.

These cases provide many of the same basic legal challenges as contract disputes and other matters of commercial litigation. Because of the important tax implications and other complexities, people who feel they have been cheated by anyone from a lottery pool leader to a business partner can discuss their legal options with a lawyer.

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