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Million-dollar ticket fight goes before Mass. Lottery board

Massachusetts LotteryMassachusetts Lottery: Million-dollar ticket fight goes before Mass. Lottery board

In the opening round of what may be a lengthy legal battle, an 83-year-old local man who found a winning Massachusetts lottery ticket in a trash bin defended his right to the $1 million prize yesterday, fending off a rival claim.

The hearing, at the headquarters of the Massachusetts Lottery Commission in Braintree, was largely an exercise in legal technicalities.

The commission said earlier this month is had already rejected a counterclaim on a ticket found by Edward St. John in a trash bin at the White Hen Pantry. At the same time, however, the commission said it wouldn't pay St. John until the still-anonymous man challenging St. John's ownership of the ticket exhausted all his avenues of appeal within the agency.

"This is just another part of the process," said Beth Bresnahan, a spokeswoman for the lottery. "It's a part of due process."

Grace Lee, general counsel to state Treasurer Timothy Cahill, served as the officer in charge of the hearing and is expected to make a decision in about six weeks. Lee asked both sides to issue written summaries of their arguments in the meantime, said Bresnahan.

Sometimes mistaken for a homeless person, St. John lives near the White Hen Pantry and is regularly seen sifting through the trash at the Main Street convenience store. Some time ago, St. John found a discarded $1,000 winner among the throwaways, but his trash-picking pastime really turned golden last month when he lifted a $1 million winner from the waste bin inside the store. The ticket was one of the lottery's $10 Million Hold 'Em Poker "instant" games.

Despite requests for interviews from "The Tonight Show," "Good Morning America" and other national spotlights, St. John has steadfastly avoided publicity, saying he doesn't want to be bothered.

Shortly after St. John's trash-to-treasure story became public, Dan Doyle, a Blackstone lawyer, confirmed he represents another local man who claims to be the rightful owner of the

ticket. Doyle told The Call previously that his client, whom he declined to identify, "misplaced" the ticket in the trash can before St. John discovered it.

Yesterday, the lottery continued to withhold the identity of the rival claimant, saying it is doing so to honor his request for anonymity. Moreover, the person did not attend the hearing, but was represented by Doyle, in a solo appearance before the hearing officer.

According to Bresnahan, Doyle did not offer testimony from any witnesses to corroborate his story, but introduced video footage purporting to show his client purchasing the winning ticket.

"He presented footage from the store's security camera, but there was nothing conclusive," she said.

Doyle, who could not be reached for comment, said previously that his client purchased about $600 worth of lottery tickets at the White Hen Pantry on the day of St. John's discovery. After scratching a telltale "key code" on the tickets, his client began sorting through the winners without actually revealing the payoff amounts.

Doyle had said his client mistakenly placed the winning ticket in a pile with the losers, which he discarded.

Workers in the store have since come forward to dispute Doyle's remarks about what happened next. Doyle claimed St. John was in the store watching his client sort the tickets and, after fishing it from the trash bin, was advised against cashing it by a clerk because he wasn't the purchaser, but the workers say that is inaccurate.

St. John did not come into the store until several hours after the original buyer discarded the ticket, and he was never advised against cashing the ticket, according to workers.

St. John did not have a lawyer to speak for him during yesterday's hearing, but he was with "family members and friends," Bresnahan said.

St. John is entitled to the winnings, the lottery has said, because lottery tickets are "bearer instruments," payable to whoever possesses and signs the back of them. St. John meets all the requirements, according to the lottery.

If, as expected, the lottery formally rejects the rival claim, the decision can be appealed to Worcester Superior Court. Although it is apparently the commission's intention to pay St. John after a decision is rendered in yesterday's administrative hearing, it is possible the court could grant an order barring it from doing so, pending further hearings, lottery officials say.

The Call

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22 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by KY Floyd.
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Avatar
Coastal Georgia
United States
Member #2653
October 30, 2003
1866 Posts
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Posted: November 30, 2005, 12:12 pm - IP Logged

Finders Keepers !!

Yes Indeed it is a bearer instrument-

Too bad for the person that"misplaced" the ticket in the trash can .

I guess he "misplaced" it in the trash can like I just did with my subway sandwich wrapper .

 

                               

              

 

 

    bellyache's avatar - 64x64a9wg

    United States
    Member #12618
    March 18, 2005
    2060 Posts
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    Posted: November 30, 2005, 12:56 pm - IP Logged

    I really hope St. John gets to keep the ticket. This has been an interesting saga. I hope we continue to hear whats going on with this case.

    Dance like no one is watching.


      United States
      Member #379
      June 5, 2002
      11296 Posts
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      Posted: November 30, 2005, 1:08 pm - IP Logged

      Mr St John should focus on suing to collect his prize in lump-sum, as it was an annuity-only ticket. He is 83 years old. Do you remember 94 (at the time)-yo Louise Outing?

        Bradly_60's avatar - disney37
        Atlantic Mine, Michigan
        United States
        Member #416
        June 23, 2002
        1614 Posts
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        Posted: November 30, 2005, 1:14 pm - IP Logged

        Really...I don't see how you can manage to throw away a million dollar winner.  He obviously was just scratching the letters to see if it was a winner, say that the numbers didn't mean anything (large prizes don't have any specific letters corresponding to the prize.  In Michigan anything over $25 doesn't have set letters.)  He threw it away, hes the dumb ass, and now he bought a million dollars for someone else.

        Brad

          jeffrey's avatar - moon
          Hamilton, OH
          United States
          Member #4162
          March 27, 2004
          277 Posts
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          Posted: November 30, 2005, 2:25 pm - IP Logged

          When will the courts understand the phrase "Bearer Instrument"? These cases should be treated as frivolous and dismissed. What a waste of time and money.

          Finders keepers losers weepers.

          Congrats to you Mr. St. John.

          Doyle, your parents should be proud, hats off to your mother and her brother.

            Avatar
            Coastal Georgia
            United States
            Member #2653
            October 30, 2003
            1866 Posts
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            Posted: November 30, 2005, 3:39 pm - IP Logged

            Mr St John should focus on suing to collect his prize in lump-sum, as it was an annuity-only ticket. He is 83 years old. Do you remember 94 (at the time)-yo Louise Outing?

            I agree- but I bet that if the game was an annuity game, it will be tough to get them to change the payout.

            He will be forced to live until he is 108 to see it all- a damn shame.

             

                                           

                          

             

             

              Avatar
              Huntsville AL
              United States
              Member #16531
              June 1, 2005
              65 Posts
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              Posted: November 30, 2005, 4:18 pm - IP Logged

              He can sell the annuity for cash.  Won't get top dollar butstill most of it.

                BabyJC's avatar - Lottery-031.jpg

                United States
                Member #3271
                January 7, 2004
                148 Posts
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                Posted: November 30, 2005, 4:47 pm - IP Logged

                Given the circumstances, the lottery should not withhold payment to St. John!

                  JAP69's avatar - alas
                  South Carolina
                  United States
                  Member #6
                  November 4, 2001
                  8790 Posts
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                  Posted: November 30, 2005, 4:50 pm - IP Logged

                  St. John is entitled to the winnings, the lottery has said, because lottery tickets are "bearer instruments," payable to whoever possesses and signs the back of them. St. John meets all the requirements, according to the lottery.

                  That says it all about ownership of a ticket. Unless it was stolen from you and you can prove it

                  WHATT

                    Avatar
                    NY
                    United States
                    Member #23835
                    October 16, 2005
                    3474 Posts
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                    Posted: November 30, 2005, 6:12 pm - IP Logged

                    When will the courts understand the phrase "Bearer Instrument"? These cases should be treated as frivolous and dismissed. What a waste of time and money.

                    Finders keepers losers weepers.

                    Congrats to you Mr. St. John.

                    Doyle, your parents should be proud, hats off to your mother and her brother.

                    "Bearer instrument" just means that the issuer doesn't keep a record of the owner or any changes in ownership, but does nothing to prove that the person in possession is actually the owner. The role of the court is to decide who the rightful owner is in the case of a dispute. Deliberately discarding property means you've willfully relinquished ownership, but if you lose something you still own it for a period of time defined by law, and the law also spells out the procedure for the finder to become the lawful owner. That's why the lawyer says the ticket was "misplaced". If he can demonstrate that the ticket was lost rather than discarded then his client still owns the ticket.

                    If you found an expensive bracelet in a garbage can it would be a reasonable assumption that it wasn't deliberately discarded. It's also a reasonable assumption that anybody who loses track of a ticket that they know is worth a million dollars and throws it in the trash with the losing tickets is exceedingly stupid. It seems to me that only revealing a code that doesn't obviously indicate that the ticket is a winner demonstrates that the client wouldn't have known it was a winner and therefore discarded it deliberately, but maybe the guy really os that stupid. That doesn't make his claim frivolous, it just makes it very hard to prove.

                     

                     

                      Avatar
                      Coastal Georgia
                      United States
                      Member #2653
                      October 30, 2003
                      1866 Posts
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                      Posted: November 30, 2005, 8:18 pm - IP Logged

                      When will the courts understand the phrase "Bearer Instrument"? These cases should be treated as frivolous and dismissed. What a waste of time and money.

                      Finders keepers losers weepers.

                      Congrats to you Mr. St. John.

                      Doyle, your parents should be proud, hats off to your mother and her brother.

                      "Bearer instrument" just means that the issuer doesn't keep a record of the owner or any changes in ownership, but does nothing to prove that the person in possession is actually the owner. The role of the court is to decide who the rightful owner is in the case of a dispute. Deliberately discarding property means you've willfully relinquished ownership, but if you lose something you still own it for a period of time defined by law, and the law also spells out the procedure for the finder to become the lawful owner. That's why the lawyer says the ticket was "misplaced". If he can demonstrate that the ticket was lost rather than discarded then his client still owns the ticket.

                      If you found an expensive bracelet in a garbage can it would be a reasonable assumption that it wasn't deliberately discarded. It's also a reasonable assumption that anybody who loses track of a ticket that they know is worth a million dollars and throws it in the trash with the losing tickets is exceedingly stupid. It seems to me that only revealing a code that doesn't obviously indicate that the ticket is a winner demonstrates that the client wouldn't have known it was a winner and therefore discarded it deliberately, but maybe the guy really os that stupid. That doesn't make his claim frivolous, it just makes it very hard to prove.

                       

                       

                      ThudWhat the ???

                       

                                                     

                                    

                       

                       

                        RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                        mid-Ohio
                        United States
                        Member #9
                        March 24, 2001
                        19825 Posts
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                        Posted: November 30, 2005, 9:03 pm - IP Logged

                        When will the courts understand the phrase "Bearer Instrument"? These cases should be treated as frivolous and dismissed. What a waste of time and money.

                        Finders keepers losers weepers.

                        Congrats to you Mr. St. John.

                        Doyle, your parents should be proud, hats off to your mother and her brother.

                        "Bearer instrument" just means that the issuer doesn't keep a record of the owner or any changes in ownership, but does nothing to prove that the person in possession is actually the owner. The role of the court is to decide who the rightful owner is in the case of a dispute. Deliberately discarding property means you've willfully relinquished ownership, but if you lose something you still own it for a period of time defined by law, and the law also spells out the procedure for the finder to become the lawful owner. That's why the lawyer says the ticket was "misplaced". If he can demonstrate that the ticket was lost rather than discarded then his client still owns the ticket.

                        If you found an expensive bracelet in a garbage can it would be a reasonable assumption that it wasn't deliberately discarded. It's also a reasonable assumption that anybody who loses track of a ticket that they know is worth a million dollars and throws it in the trash with the losing tickets is exceedingly stupid. It seems to me that only revealing a code that doesn't obviously indicate that the ticket is a winner demonstrates that the client wouldn't have known it was a winner and therefore discarded it deliberately, but maybe the guy really os that stupid. That doesn't make his claim frivolous, it just makes it very hard to prove.

                         

                         

                        If Doyle's argument works for his anonymous client, then it will work for anyone who can prove they were in the White Hen Pantry that day.  Some of Doyle's remarks have been disputed by some of the store's workers and once someone start making up part of a story, the whole story becomes doubtful.

                         * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                           
                                     Evil Looking       

                          JAP69's avatar - alas
                          South Carolina
                          United States
                          Member #6
                          November 4, 2001
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                          Posted: December 1, 2005, 12:55 am - IP Logged


                          Dumpster diving rule number 1
                          If it's in the dumpster it's fair game

                          WHATT

                            four4me's avatar - gate1
                            MD
                            United States
                            Member #1701
                            June 18, 2003
                            8360 Posts
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                            Posted: December 1, 2005, 1:09 am - IP Logged

                            bearer instrument

                            Definition

                            A negotiable instrument which is payable on demand to the holder, regardless of whom it was originally issued to.