A Miami-Dade judge on Thursday said the wife of a lottery winner cannot go forward with a lawsuit against her spouse until she proves the money should belong to her.
"She has no identifiable legal rights at this time," Circuit Judge Jennifer D. Bailey said. "Where does the law say you automatically have a right to participate in the proceeds?"
Bailey temporarily dismissed the lawsuit Donna Campbell filed against her husband, Arnim Ramdass, an American Airlines mechanic who hit a $19 million Florida Lotto jackpot last summer with 16 of his co-workers.
Campbell and her attorneys have 20 days to amend their complaint. They must show why Campbell should have a claim to her husband's lottery winnings. They will try to prove that the money Ramdass used to buy the lottery ticket came from his work salary, which is considered a marital asset.
"It appears that once we do that, we can go forward and get a trial date and proceed with vindicating Ms. Campbell's rights," attorney Bruce Baldwin said after Thursday's hearing.
Campbell, 48, a former model and beauty queen, says her husband of three years tried to keep his good fortune a secret from her when he hit the lottery last summer. She claims he disconnected the phone line and kept her from watching TV so she wouldn't find out he was a winner.
Ramdass, 52, and the other winners took a lump-sum payment of $10.2 million, which worked out to $600,000 per player before taxes.
When Campbell found out about the money — she Googled her husband's name and found a Florida Lottery press release about the jackpot — she confronted Ramdass. He told her he bought the winning ticket for his daughter from a previous marriage who lives in Orlando, but Campbell believes that was a ploy to defraud her of the money.
"The facts of this case are not complicated," Bailey said in court, speaking to Campbell's attorneys. "Those folks out at the airport pooled money to buy lottery tickets. One hit — bless 'em — and your allegation is that Mr. Ramdass, in an effort to ice out Ms. Campbell, transferred his ticket to his daughter."
The judge suggested that divorce court might be a better venue to resolve the dispute.
"I'm not sure she has the ability in this court — civil court — to stop her husband from disposing of the lottery money," Bailey said.
But Campbell has maintained that she wants to sue her husband for fraud first and divorce him afterward. She said she feels abandoned by someone who promised to be with her through good times and bad.
Ramdass, who for months eluded process servers and has not responded to interview requests, did not attend the hearing.
"I'm not surprised," Campbell said.
Arnim Ramdass and Donna Campbell eat wedding cake while they celebrate their marriage in 2005.