Sam Haddad did a happy dance outside the Ottawa courthouse Tuesday, minutes after a judge dismissed a lawsuit from his sister seeking millions from the $32 million lottery jackpot he and his longtime barber won five years ago.
"Five years of hell is almost over. It's over!" the 63-year-old Ottawa man cried, as a female relative ululated joyfully behind him. "That's Lebanese yodelling," Haddad explained to bemused journalists.
"Now we can enjoy our money," Haddad's wife, Denise, exclaimed. "We're going out for the biggest supper, and I'm going to get so drunk for the next few days, I don't even know who I'm going to be!"
The celebratory scene was in stark contrast to the response of Haddad's sister, Leila Nahas, who sued her brother nearly three years ago, alleging she had contributed one dollar to the purchase of the winning $3 Lotto 6/49 ticket in June 2008.
(See Sibling battle over $32M lottery win lands in court, Lottery Post, May 3, 2011.)
"Enjoy my money," she called bitterly to Haddad's family supporters as she descended a courthouse staircase following Superior Court Judge Robert Beaudoin's emphatic conclusion that her story was "simply not plausible."
Nahas's husband, George, shielded his wife from journalists eager to get her in front of cameras stationed in front of the courthouse.
"We pursued what we believed was right," George Nahas said in a brief interview. "We did that reluctantly at the beginning, but we were forced into it by the attitude of (Haddad), who did not really accept any responsibility, rejected us, told that we were hungry for money."
In his ruling, the judge found that during last month's civil trail, Nahas utterly failed to prove any of the material points of her story.
According to her, Haddad had appeared at the Union Smoke Shop, the store she and her husband ran on Rideau Street, on June 27, 2008 with a losing ticket for the June 14, 2008 Lotto 6/49 draw in his wallet.
She claimed they agreed that she, Haddad and Mike Dettorre, her brother's barber for more than three decades, would play the same numbers in the next day's Lotto 6/49 draw.
She said she wrote the numbers down on a slip of paper and put it in a part of her wallet where she keeps large denomination bills and receipts.
Three days later, Haddad and Dettorre learned they had won the $32-million jackpot with a ticket bought June 28 at Ottawa South Grocery on Sunnyside Avenue.
But it wasn't until late August that, Nahas said, she rediscovered the slip of paper and realized it contained the winning numbers.
The judge — who said Nahas was "neither a credible nor a reliable witness" — wasn't buying it, as he delivered his hour-long oral decision Tuesday.
"To believe that she could have written down a lottery number on a Friday that involved a share in a $32-million lottery ticket with her brother and his partner, then know by the following Monday, three days later, that her brother and the barber had won that very same big jackpot, and also know the winning numbers either that day or the next day at the latest, and not question herself as to whether or not that might be the very same ticket she claimed to have a share in, defies common sense," the judge said.
It was "even more improbable" that she would forget about a note in her wallet containing those same lottery numbers for nearly two months, Beaudoin said.
"What is more disturbing, she discarded the wallet, a significant piece of evidence, in December 2010, almost one year after she commenced litigation," he said.
Beaudoin noted that Nahas did not claim an interest in the ticket until after she learned that Haddad had given her brothers a much larger share of his winnings than the $25,000 he gave her — something that her brother Mike Haddad testified she was unhappy about.
"Her unhappiness with her unequal treatment is one other possible answer as to why she might have pursued this claim," the judge said.
For his part, Sam Haddad "testified in a straightforward manner," Beaudoin said. He was not evasive in cross-examination and openly admitted he had not reported cash income he earned prior to his lottery win as a self-employed floor installer to Revenue Canada.
But it was the evidence of Mike Dettorre, the barber who shared in Haddad's winnings, that "completely destroyed" Nahas's case, the judge said.
"His evidence was compelling and completely unchallenged," he said, adding: "It is not often that this court hears from a witness who appears to be so pleased to have an opportunity to testify."
Dettorre corroborated Haddad's story that he bought a lottery ticket on June 14, 2008, and gave it to his barber as a tip following a haircut.
The two men had bought hundreds of lottery tickets together over more than three decades, always signing the tickets and stashing them behind a mirror in Dettorre's Old Ottawa South barber shop, he testified.
That's what Dettorre did with the June 14 lottery ticket, he testified. And it remained behind the mirror until June 28, when Haddad retrieved it and went next door to play the same numbers again.
The judge said: "That ticket, like every one of the hundreds of tickets they had bought for over 34 years, was safely stored behind a mirror in a small barber shop in Old Ottawa South. It could not have happened the way (Nahas) claims."
Haddad is seeking legal costs — which could easily run into six figures — from his sister for the action. Beaudoin gave Haddad's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, 20 days to make submissions on what those costs should be.
"This action has divided a once-proud family," the judge said, in delivering his decision. "This trial is over, but angry feelings will haunt this family for the foreseeable future."
If Sam and Denise Haddad's comments Tuesday were any indication, those wounds will never heal.
"The family's split," Sam Haddad said. adding that as far as he was concerned, his sister, a year-and-a-half his junior, "doesn't exist."
His wife was, if anything, even less forgiving. "I will never speak to her again, and I hope she rots and burns in hell!" she declared. "Rot and burn in hell," she repeated, in case her meaning was unclear.
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