A jury Thursday ruled that a former middle school teacher who won a $1 million lottery jackpot must pay $291,000 to her former sweetheart, who testified that he handed her the money to buy the winning ticket.
Lynn Poirier, 62, claimed the prize in 2007. Her live-in boyfriend, Howard Browning, 62, sued her a few months later, claiming they had a long-standing agreement: If one of them won a major lottery prize, they'd split it 50-50.
But Poirier gave jurors a very different version of events. She said there was no agreement and that four years earlier she broke off their romance and moved out.
"I told him that if I was married to him I'd divorce him. I told him I didn't want him around me," she said.
(See Florida lottery winner back in court for retrial, Lottery Post, Feb. 2, 2016.)
Jurors deliberated three and a half hours Thursday before returning their verdict. They ruled that the couple had a binding contract and that Poirier breached it.
They ordered her to pay $291,000.
It's not clear how they came to that total.
"It should have been a lot more," said Browning, who works on a landscaping crew.
"Right now I'm going to maybe take a couple of days off and relax. There's been lots of tension going on here," he said.
Poirier left the Seminole County Courthouse without comment.
Browning is entitled to substantially more money than $291,000, according to his attorney, Sean Sheppard, because he's due eight years of interest. That would likely add more than $100,000 to the judgment.
On Monday Browning told jurors that June 2, 2007, they were at an Oviedo convenience store, that he handed her $20 to buy the $1 million Florida Lottery raffle ticket and that she handed the money to the clerk.
But Poirier said she was alone, that she had stopped for fuel, bought the ticket then by chance bumped into Browning as she headed back to her car.
"Never under any condition, any place, anywhere did I say I would split lottery winnings with Howard Browning," she told jurors.
The two fell in love in 1991. She hired him to make improvements to her Geneva farmhouse then let him move in and live rent free. She had him evicted in 2009, two years after she won the jackpot and one year after he sued her, demanding half of her winnings.
Sheppard told jurors that Poirier was the one who suggested in 1992 that they share any future jackpots. She also raised the issue again in 1993, the last time they discussed it, Sheppard said.
Poirier's attorney, Mark Sessums, said the couple may have had an agreement in the early 1990s but their relationship had changed dramatically over the years.
Their romance ended in 2003, Poirier said, a claim Browning said was untrue.
Although Browning continued to live in the farmhouse, she moved a short distance away to her mother's house on Lake Pickett Road, she said.
Sessums said when she won the jackpot, Poirier was engaged to marry a bail bondsman in Arkansas and Browning had started a romance with a local 7-Eleven clerk.
Browning described his relationship with that woman as a close friendship. He told jurors he saw Poirier's engagement ring but insisted that that did not stop her from having sex with him.
At the time of the lottery drawing, he said, they were still sweethearts.
"She was definitely lying on the stand.... Lynn and I lived there all that time," Browning said.
Sheppard showed jurors Poirier's concealed weapons permit, which she applied for in April 2007. The address listed on it: the Geneva farmhouse.
The same address appeared on a 2007 tax form sent to Poirier by the state of Florida, documenting her lottery winnings.
At the time of the jackpot, Poirier, who has a doctorate degree, worked as a special education teacher at South Seminole Middle School and Browning, a high school dropout, was an out-of-work mechanic. She has since retired.