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California store owner sues customer for half of $1M lottery prize

California LotteryCalifornia Lottery: California store owner sues customer for half of $1M lottery prize

MILPITAS, Calif. — Assembly line worker Evangelina Reyes had big plans for the $1 million she won earlier this year in the California Lottery's "Emerald 10" scratch-off game. But then the owner of the Milpitas liquor store where she bought the winning ticket slapped her with a lawsuit, claiming she'd signed a handwritten contract guaranteeing him half the prize.

Now, instead of dipping into the money for a family vacation in Hawaii and serenely banking the rest for early retirement, the 53-year-old mother of five is gearing up for a court battle with Laxmi Kant Bhardwaj, the owner of USA Liquors. At his request, a judge last week temporarily froze $350,000, half of her after-tax prize.

Reyes is hardly the first lucky lottery winner to duke it out in court. Ugly battles exposing the seamier side of hitting the jackpot have been sprouting up for years, from Indianapolis to Ottawa to York, England. In Bakersfield, for instance, a 75-year-old woman who took a $32 million lump sum payout from the California Lottery settled a lawsuit she filed two years ago against her son, claiming he filched some of the money to buy four houses, 10 cars and a boat. Currently, a legal dispute similar to the one between Bhardwaj and Reyes is raging in East Helena, Montana, between two men over splitting a $1 million lottery prize.

In Reyes' case, the squabble has taken some of the shine off her good fortune. She's been buying lottery tickets from various stores in the Bay Area nearly every other day for at least two decades and was ecstatic about her big win until Bhardwaj sued.

"It's unbelievable," said a tearful Reyes during an interview in her lawyers' office. "I'm so depressed, I cannot sleep."

Bhardwaj couldn't be reached for comment. But his lawyer Paul L. Gumina contended in an interview that there is ample evidence that Reyes owes Bhardwaj $350,000, including an eyewitness to their agreement. Reyes' lawyers, on the other hand, claim the alleged witness wasn't actually there.

Bhardwaj has already been paid the $5,000, or half of 1 percent of the $1 million prize, that he is entitled to for selling the winning ticket Jan. 5, Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso confirmed. However, when Bhardwaj called the Lottery to report that one of his customers had won the prize, he did not claim half was his, the spokesman said.

The conflict dates back to December, after Reyes won a smaller prize from a winning scratch-off ticket she'd bought from Bhardwaj's tiny store tucked in a mini-mall on Calaveras Boulevard.

Overjoyed by the $1,000 she won that day, Reyes gave $100 to Bhardwaj after he'd jokingly asked how much he was going to get, thinking it would increase her luck in the future, her lawyers said.

She then returned to the store in early January after she got off from work packing computers into boxes for $14.20 an hour, and plunked down $20 for two $10 "Emerald 10" scratch-off tickets. She immediately scratched them off and screamed for joy after one showed she'd won $1 million. Reyes then signed a small card or piece of paper at Bhardwaj's request without reading it, she said, believing she needed to do so to eventually get the money. At some point, she said he asked her once again to share the prize.

"I promise to give him $50,000," Reyes said during the interview, adding that she was in shock at the time and believed that paying him would once again improve her future luck. Both Bhardwaj and Reyes are naturalized citizens who learned English as a second language, something her lawyer says may have contributed to a misunderstanding between them.

But Bhardwaj's breach-of-contract lawsuit claims that in December, Reyes paid him $500 of her $1,000 winning ticket, not $100, based on their spoken agreement that he would advance her the money for the tickets as long as she split the prize with him equally.

In January, they entered into the same agreement, the lawsuit alleges. He offered to buy her $80 worth of tickets in exchange for half of any prize, the suit contends. The handwritten document that Reyes signed, which does not state that he bought the tickets for her, constitutes a legally binding contract to pay him $350,000, which she has violated, according to the lawsuit.

There's nothing in the Lottery's code of conduct that prohibits its 21,000 retailers from making such deals with customers, spokesman Traverso said. The agency also does not keep track of how many track lawsuits are filed over prizes.

In contrast, Reyes' lawyers Nelson McElmurry and Domenico Scire contend that Bhardwaj doctored the document, pointing to the manner in which some of the numbers are squeezed onto the page and the fact that his first lawyer sent them a different version of it than the one they received 11 days later from Gumina, the second lawyer Bhardwaj hired. At most, they said, it might have originally stated that Reyes would pay him the $50,000.

But even if Reyes rashly promised to give the store owner $50,000, she is not obligated to pay him, they claim. Under the law, they said, promising to give someone a gift is not considered a legally binding agreement or contract, and the person may withdraw the promise with impunity, even if they have signed the offer. An enforceable contract exists only if the person who is promised something has gotten something in return. Reyes' lawyers claim Bhardwaj did not pay for the lottery tickets, so there is no breach of contract.

"The whole thing is a ruse," McElmurry said, "as we plan to prove in court."

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58 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by Goteki54.
Page 1 of 4
Original Bey's avatar - Lottery-022.jpg

Bahamas
Member #133462
September 30, 2012
5946 Posts
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Posted: March 5, 2015, 8:46 am - IP Logged

For the love of Ella! Stop making promises on money you haven't won yet. You bought the ticket. You positioned yourself in the right place at the right time and purchased the right scratch off for the win.

 

The only thing I am signing is my ticket and paperwork at the official lottery headquarters in the presence of my attorney.

 

I do wonder though if investigations will soon reveal that this store owner somehow figured out how to determine the winning scratch offs and partnered with this lady unknowingly to share in her winnings. Hmmm....

 

I eagerly await the court's ruling on this drama.

"Everything works  ONCE!"

    Lynn-Lynn's avatar - yocco
    Kansas city Mo
    United States
    Member #133405
    September 29, 2012
    49 Posts
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    Posted: March 5, 2015, 8:46 am - IP Logged

    If he give her the tickets she need to suck it up and pay the man.Cause  now she about to give some to a lawyer. Congratulations anyway

      ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
      Idaho
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      Member #56506
      November 21, 2007
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      Posted: March 5, 2015, 9:19 am - IP Logged

      Well this is going to be messy. Confused

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

        dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
        Oklahoma
        United States
        Member #82391
        November 12, 2009
        6305 Posts
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        Posted: March 5, 2015, 9:23 am - IP Logged

        Drama....Argue Drama....Boxing Drama Argue.... Why on earth would anybody make a deal with a cashier Bang Head???? I don't know who to believe sounds like the cashier is shaking down people No No but if the customer made a deal she should honor it  Yes Nod. The sad thing is the lawyers will end up with a lot of the money Mad.

        I Love Pink & Green 1908

          Avatar
          frontenac, kansas
          United States
          Member #67724
          December 3, 2008
          200 Posts
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          Posted: March 5, 2015, 9:37 am - IP Logged

          Unless I read it wrong why would a store owner buy you 80 dollars worth of tickets but you must share half.  He could of bought the tickets himself and kept it all.  There's got to be more to the story...

          I get tired of these different store owners say (and they are foreigners) how much did you win me today.  I hate to be rude but I just do not say anything back to them...I hear different horror stories quite often.

            noise-gate's avatar - images q=tbn:ANd9GcR91HDs4UJhjxO7cmeMQWZ5lB_FOcMLOGicau4V74R45tDgPWrr
            Bay Area - California
            United States
            Member #136477
            December 12, 2012
            4146 Posts
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            Posted: March 5, 2015, 9:51 am - IP Logged

            l have purchased tickets at this place in the past. Its a hole in the wall and l have never seen a single customer in this store at any of the times that l have visited . You can stick a fork in me- l am done with this location.

            People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.

              ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
              Idaho
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              November 21, 2007
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              Posted: March 5, 2015, 10:29 am - IP Logged

              l have purchased tickets at this place in the past. Its a hole in the wall and l have never seen a single customer in this store at any of the times that l have visited . You can stick a fork in me- l am done with this location.

              If I played the lottery and lived in that area I would definitely never go to that store again. Yes Nod

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

                JoeBigLotto's avatar - Lottery-049.jpg
                melbourne , florida
                United States
                Member #121140
                January 3, 2012
                190 Posts
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                Posted: March 5, 2015, 10:37 am - IP Logged

                Store people are getting more crazy everyday .This is why you never scratch at the store when you buy go home or to your car so when you win big just drive away adios Amigo lol

                  dpoly1's avatar - driver
                  PA
                  United States
                  Member #66141
                  October 16, 2008
                  1679 Posts
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                  Posted: March 5, 2015, 10:38 am - IP Logged

                  This is just plain crazy

                  Cussing Face

                  Have the store owner arrested for extortion!

                  dpoly1 - Playing the lottery to save the jobs of those that build, transport, sell & maintain luxury items! -

                   

                  Eschew Poverty ........... Vote Conservative!

                    duckman's avatar - ducklogodrake64x64
                    Jacksonville Florida
                    United States
                    Member #23018
                    October 6, 2005
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                    Posted: March 5, 2015, 10:57 am - IP Logged

                    Frivolous lawsuit ... has no chance of getting anywhere unless there is more to the story than what we know.

                      hearsetrax's avatar - 0118

                      United States
                      Member #52345
                      May 21, 2007
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                      Posted: March 5, 2015, 11:18 am - IP Logged

                      Crazywould love to see the lawyer's bill on this one Crazy

                        Avatar
                        New York
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                        Member #103600
                        January 4, 2011
                        4117 Posts
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                        Posted: March 5, 2015, 11:29 am - IP Logged

                        When cashing tickets, I have had clerks and business owners ask what their share is; my answer was that your share was my money spent on losing tickets- and then I have stopped buying at those locations (I have tipped clerks at regular locations when cashing tickets and will spend an extra dollar to buy a clerk their own ticket before the drawing on a number I have a strong feeling about). I find it quite annoying when others act as if we're partners and I'm obligated to them if I hit.

                          Guru101's avatar - rw6jhh
                          Indiana
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                          January 7, 2007
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                          Posted: March 5, 2015, 11:36 am - IP Logged

                          I don't think the store owner is entitled to anything, even if Evangelina Reyes agreed to split any prize she won, for 2 reasons:

                          1 - The "agreement" at the time seemed to be more of a friendly gesture, which isn't legally enforceable. This wasn't the formation of a "lottery pool" so to speak. People make extravagant agreements all the time. It's kind of like if my dad asked me if I won the lottery if I would give him a million dollars and I said "Sure", and then when I won, I'm not allowed to change my mind. That's not a legally enforceable agreement. I can't be forced to pay him a million dollars.

                          2 - I question the legality of the agreement itself. The CA Lottery Retailer Code of Conduct states the following:

                          "Never charge a fee or require a purchase from customers in exchange for assistance with
                          Lottery products or prize cashing"

                          and

                          "Promote fair, honest, respectful, professional,
                          and courteous treatment of all customers and
                          Lottery representatives at all times"

                          So it appears to me the agreement itself was not legal in the first place, which 99% of the time means it's an open-and-shut-case. As Judge Judy would say: The store owner doesn't have "clean hands", and therefore could not make a judgement in the store owner's favor.

                          Gonna win.Big Smile

                            noise-gate's avatar - images q=tbn:ANd9GcR91HDs4UJhjxO7cmeMQWZ5lB_FOcMLOGicau4V74R45tDgPWrr
                            Bay Area - California
                            United States
                            Member #136477
                            December 12, 2012
                            4146 Posts
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                            Posted: March 5, 2015, 11:42 am - IP Logged

                            I don't think the store owner is entitled to anything, even if Evangelina Reyes agreed to split any prize she won, for 2 reasons:

                            1 - The "agreement" at the time seemed to be more of a friendly gesture, which isn't legally enforceable. This wasn't the formation of a "lottery pool" so to speak. People make extravagant agreements all the time. It's kind of like if my dad asked me if I won the lottery if I would give him a million dollars and I said "Sure", and then when I won, I'm not allowed to change my mind. That's not a legally enforceable agreement. I can't be forced to pay him a million dollars.

                            2 - I question the legality of the agreement itself. The CA Lottery Retailer Code of Conduct states the following:

                            "Never charge a fee or require a purchase from customers in exchange for assistance with
                            Lottery products or prize cashing"

                            and

                            "Promote fair, honest, respectful, professional,
                            and courteous treatment of all customers and
                            Lottery representatives at all times"

                            So it appears to me the agreement itself was not legal in the first place, which 99% of the time means it's an open-and-shut-case. As Judge Judy would say: The store owner doesn't have "clean hands", and therefore could not make a judgement in the store owner's favor.

                            l concur- l see absolutely no reason why people who are forking over their own money should be entering " an agreement" with any store clerk/ owner over winnings. The Store did nothing but run YOUR numbers through the machine.Next we going to read that Restaurants want a fee for you to use their restroom if you not eating on property. 

                            I hope the Judge "sees the light" and tosses this maniac's lawsuit out.

                            People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.