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Sisters' lottery jackpot trial begins today

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NEW BRITAIN, Ct. — The lottery numbers that sisters Theresa Sokaitis and Rose Bakaysa had played together for years finally paid off in 2005, yielding a $500,000 Powerball jackpot.

But for whom?

Sokaitis, 84, of Middletown, Connecticut, claims she never saw a dime of that money and sued her older sister. This morning, their dispute over the jackpot will go to trial before a judge at Superior Court in New Britain.

"I love my sister and I feel bad this is all getting dragged into court, but I have children and they are entitled to their share," Sokaitis said. "I'm just going after my own money. Do I feel I deserve it? Not for me, but my children deserve it."

Sokaitis sued Bakaysa, 87, of Plainville, for breach of contract in August 2005 when she learned about the winning Powerball ticket.

Today, the numbers are still etched in Sokaitis' mind.

"5, 8, 10, 16, 22, 24, the numbers we always played. But when she won, she didn't tell me," Sokaitis said.

Before Sokaitis' case could go before a jury, the trial court granted Bakaysa's motion for summary judgment in September 2006, agreeing with Bakaysa that a written contract that the sisters had entered into was unenforceable under state law.

Sokaitis then filed an appeal, and the state Appellate Court reversed the trial court's decision, prompting Bakaysa to take the case to the state's highest court.

The Supreme Court last August agreed with the Appellate Court's decision that the sisters promised to share any winnings equally and that the consideration for the agreement "was not the money that they won but rather their mutual promises to one another to share in any winnings they received," the justices wrote.

And it's this mutual promise — a written contract signed by both sisters to split their winnings — that Sokaitis said she hopes will "hold a lot of weight" with the judge.

Sokaitis said that drawing up a contract between sisters did not seem unusual, especially because they had often gambled together. Sokaitis said she shared with her sister a $175,000 casino jackpot that Sokaitis said she won in 1995. At that time, the sisters only had an oral agreement, she said.

But later, with the possibility of even more gambling winnings on the line, the sisters decided to make it official and sought the aid of an accountant to help them write a contract.

"I just felt you should always have a contract whether you're family or not, so it's fair for the both of you," Sokaitis said.

Sean R. Higgins, a Boston lawyer who has represented Sokaitis in the case, said he was skeptical when he first heard about the written contract because people often make that claim about lottery winnings.

"And then it came over the fax machine and I thought, 'Holy mackerel! Here it is,'" he said.

But William J. Sweeney, the lawyer representing Bakaysa, said the sisters had a falling out more than a year before the Powerball ticket was purchased. Sweeney, speaking on behalf of Bakaysa, said the sisters' dispute revoked whatever contract they had.

"The contract was rescinded," Sweeney said. "Evidence will show that an argument they had in 2004 broke up their partnership. That will be a factual question for the court to decide."

At the time the winning ticket was purchased, Sweeney said, his client was in a partnership with her brother, who had actually purchased the winning ticket. Court documents show that Bakaysa held the winning ticket jointly with her brother, Joseph F. Troy Sr. of Plainville. Lottery officials paid Bakaysa and Troy each $249,999 before taxes.

Attempts to reach Bakaysa were unsuccessful.

Sokaitis insists that her partnership was still valid and that like all sisters, the two fought once in a while.

"All siblings have their differences," Sokaitis said. "It doesn't mean you don't still love each other."

Sam Pollack, a Boston lawyer who will represent Sokaitis today in court, said that just getting mad at a partner does not break a contract. "There actually has to be a meeting of the minds and there needs to be purposeful intent, not just anger off the cuff," Pollack said.

Although it has been years since the sisters have talked, Sokaitis said she hopes the result of today's court hearing will help them heal their broken sisterhood and perhaps help them bring back the days they enjoyed going to the casinos, driving along the shoreline in Old Saybrook and playing bingo.

"I think she really means this," Pollack said about his client. "The most horrible part of this for Theresa has been not being able to speak with her sister."

Sokaitis admits, however, that she's not sure how to make that happen.

"We used to have so much fun," she said. "I miss her so much."

These days, Sokaitis said, she rarely plays the lottery and instead takes the money she would have used to gamble and writes a check to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.

And whatever the outcome, Sokaitis said she will be glad the five-year legal battle with her sister will be over.

"I'm so blessed," Sokaitis said, pointing to photographs displayed throughout her apartment of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "I'm a winner already."

Hartford Courant

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35 comments. Last comment 5 years ago by tiggs95.
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gocart1's avatar - lighthouse
da bronx,city island,n.y.
United States
Member #30516
January 17, 2006
333 Posts
Offline
Posted: March 23, 2010, 10:02 am - IP Logged

Aint familys funUnhappy

    Avatar
    Norfolk,VA
    United States
    Member #83225
    December 2, 2009
    757 Posts
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    Posted: March 23, 2010, 10:41 am - IP Logged

    Money is powerful....

    ''YOU CAN PAY FOR SCHOOL BUT, YOU CAN'T BUY CLASS''Thumbs Up

      maringoman's avatar - kobold
      Massachusetts
      United States
      Member #37433
      April 14, 2006
      2122 Posts
      Online
      Posted: March 23, 2010, 12:12 pm - IP Logged

      Thats why I am so afraid of getting into any sort of lottery agreements.

      Money waters peoples' passions like crazy. If I'm to enter any such agreement then there has to be a written agreement or a witness.

        plus40's avatar - chi jpeg.jpg
        New Member
        Atlanta, GA
        United States
        Member #85651
        January 20, 2010
        6 Posts
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        Posted: March 23, 2010, 12:12 pm - IP Logged

        Wow! Since 2005, I wonder how much will be left after the lawyers have been working on this for 5 years.

          dpoly1's avatar - driver
          PA
          United States
          Member #66141
          October 16, 2008
          1453 Posts
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          Posted: March 23, 2010, 12:35 pm - IP Logged

          I always play for myself and I never ever promise anyone any money if I would win the lottery.

          I would be kind to others, but would never honor ANY request for money!

          A win would be for my family that has done without since I lost my job in 2001 and became disabled in 2008.

            dr65's avatar - black panther.jpg
            Pennsylvania
            United States
            Member #74096
            May 2, 2009
            16572 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: March 23, 2010, 12:56 pm - IP Logged

            This is asinine. 84 & 87? They want it for their children? Grandchildren? Well how many are there....$500,000 after taxes, split 2 ways doesn't

            go that far...WHERE'S *brother winner*? Is he off the hook or did he just fade back into the shadows hoping they'll forget him?

            They need to get over it. Let her keep it, for crying out loud it's not 100 million dollars. They are probably doing a worse number on whatever

            remains of their health. The greed and mine, mine, mine mindset will be passed on to the next generation...by the time they pay the legal expenses

            like another poster said...they won't have anything left. 5 years?

            Maybe it's not the money so much as the principle but have the <snip> common sense to know when to let go..over 3/4's of a century on this earth

            for both of them, you'd think they've only been on it for about 15.

            Just another hard luck story....win something big, wind up in the hole.

             

            This post has been automatically changed by the Lottery Post computer system to remove inappropriate content and/or spam.

              RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
              mid-Ohio
              United States
              Member #9
              March 24, 2001
              17951 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: March 23, 2010, 1:05 pm - IP Logged

              As I understand contract laws from watching TV court shows, in order to have a contract both parties must contribute to and expect something from the other.  Sounds like the one sister had a contract that said what ever her sister won was half hers without actively gambling and splitting her winnings with her sister or contributing any monies to the cost of the tickets, what kind of contract is that?

              * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
              * your best chance at winning a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
                   Wink 

                ThatScaryChick's avatar - AbnSTiA

                United States
                Member #56506
                November 21, 2007
                4663 Posts
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                Posted: March 23, 2010, 2:06 pm - IP Logged

                Crazy. That is one of the reasons I choose to gamble alone, because of nonsense like this. I use my own money to play and I never tell others that I will split the jackpot with them if I win.

                "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                  rundown99's avatar - cigar

                  United States
                  Member #567
                  August 14, 2002
                  460 Posts
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                  Posted: March 23, 2010, 4:36 pm - IP Logged

                  The solution is to buy lottery tickets alone.  Also, play the lottery alone in a state where you can remain anonymous.  The key words are:  #1.  alone and #2. anonymous.

                  Smart lottery winners form trust to claim their winnings.  They send an attorney to the lottery headquarters to claim the prize in trust, so that ONLY the name of the trust is revealed.  And they tell NO ONE, especially relatives.

                  If you ever win a lottery and you are single, the only person you should ever marry is someone who was truly in love with you BEFORE you won the jackpot!

                    RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                    mid-Ohio
                    United States
                    Member #9
                    March 24, 2001
                    17951 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: March 23, 2010, 5:29 pm - IP Logged

                    The solution is to buy lottery tickets alone.  Also, play the lottery alone in a state where you can remain anonymous.  The key words are:  #1.  alone and #2. anonymous.

                    Playing the lottery in a state where you can remain anonymous is like picking your family, you're stuck with circumstances where you are but you can still choose to play alone.

                    * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
                    * your best chance at winning a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
                         Wink 

                      lottocalgal's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
                      CA
                      United States
                      Member #57222
                      December 23, 2007
                      587 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: March 23, 2010, 6:09 pm - IP Logged

                      Crazy. That is one of the reasons I choose to gamble alone, because of nonsense like this. I use my own money to play and I never tell others that I will split the jackpot with them if I win.

                      I Agree!

                      NO one knows and all of my donations, including those to my family will be anonymous.  No one can claim that I agreed to any split because no one knows i even play!!!!!

                        ca-dreamin*'s avatar - Lottery-065.jpg
                        Chicago
                        United States
                        Member #70678
                        February 8, 2009
                        889 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: March 23, 2010, 7:09 pm - IP Logged

                        Playing the lottery in a state where you can remain anonymous is like picking your family, you're stuck with circumstances where you are but you can still choose to play alone.

                        Alone and DENY, DENY, DENY!!!!!

                        Since the sisters had a written contract how would you legally break it? Could one have notified the other or would both parties have to agree?

                        I agree with others....play alone and keep silent about it. Nothing like winning a large sum of money only to have someone come forward and claim it's theirs too.

                          Avatar
                          NY
                          United States
                          Member #23835
                          October 16, 2005
                          2843 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: March 24, 2010, 1:44 am - IP Logged

                          As I understand contract laws from watching TV court shows, in order to have a contract both parties must contribute to and expect something from the other.  Sounds like the one sister had a contract that said what ever her sister won was half hers without actively gambling and splitting her winnings with her sister or contributing any monies to the cost of the tickets, what kind of contract is that?

                          The very first sentence in the article clearly says that "they played together for years" and the court ruled that the consideration that was exchanged was the mutual promise to equally share any prizes. The article also clearly says that the sister who is suing previously shared a $175,000 prize with the sister who bought the PB ticket. The original challenge to the contract was that Connecticut had a law making gambling contracts illegal, but the court ruled that the contract is valid because it applies to legal forms of gambling. That just leaves the matter of whether the contract was still in force at the time the PB ticket was purchased.

                          Since the contract is valid, the sister who won has to prove that she had the right tounilaterally rescind the contract. Each of themagreed to take on obligations in exchange for benefits, even though theobligations and benefits were unknown. The law is clear that you can'tbenefit from a contract more than the other party (or parties) and thenrescind it without the consent of the other party or without justcause. If the written contract had been in place before the previousprize was shared I doubt the lawyer would even be trying to argue thatthere was a legitimate and legal recission. Since the written contract(apparently) came after sharing the prize, the lawyer for the sisterseeking to share will  presumably argue that the written agreement simply affirmed apre-existing oral contract, and that the sister who won the PB prizehas already benefitted and therefore can't unilaterally rescind her obligations under the contract.

                          Had there been no disproportionate benefit to any of the parties, itwould almost certainly be permissible for any party to unilaterally bowout of potential future obligations as that would also preclude reapingany benefit. That makes the falling out relevant. If the fallling outwas substantial and put an end to other aspects of the relationship,and especially to any joint gambling ventures, it's reasonable toassume that both sisters intended that the contract was also no longerin force. Of course a reasonable assumption is well short of proof.Without a clear rule of law that matches the specifics of a case, legalrulings are up to the opinions of those deciding the case, and I thinkthe case could go either way.

                          My reading is that the argument is over the (presumably) half sharethat doesn't (clearly?) belong to the brother, so the case is over onehalf of that, or $125,000. One lawyer is probably working on acontingency basis, that would limit the sister's gain to about 80k. Theother sister has probably already spent thousands, and will spendthousands more. If they had a lick of sense they'd settle for 50k.


                            United States
                            Member #88613
                            March 19, 2010
                            14 Posts
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                            Posted: March 24, 2010, 3:44 am - IP Logged

                            So I'm mad at my wireless company's false 3G coverage claims, so my contract's automatically voided if I'm mad at them, right? Without telling the, rigt? Yes, I know wireless company contracts have clauses, just making a point here.