John Struna and his attorney Wednesday beat a legal demon that has vexed consumers for years: The fine print.
The result means Struna could be more than $1 million richer, and a convenience store owner who sells Ohio Lottery tickets could be forced out of business.
Four nights a week between 1997 and October 2001, Struna stopped at the Convenient Food Mart on East 200th Street in Cleveland, where he purchased between 40 and 55 Buckeye Five tickets from the store's owner, Harry Singh.
Singh welcomed the business.
It was hard not to. According to his own estimate, Struna spent about $125,000 a year on tickets at the store, spending as much as $6 a ticket. His routine paid off. He hit it big on Oct. 25, 2001, correctly picking all five numbers on each of the 52 tickets he purchased that day.
It was easy to figure the total payout: if one winning ticket paid $100,000, then 52 winning tickets must be worth $5.2 million total.
But the Ohio Lottery Commission told Struna the numbers didn't add up, pointing out that the rules clearly state that the game only pays a maximum of $1 million to be divided by each winning ticket.
Worse yet, another person had picked the same five numbers, which meant the total jackpot would have to be divided 53 ways, not 52, so Struna's tickets were worth $981,000.
Struna blamed Singh for encouraging him to purchase so many tickets, and for never telling him that the game was capped at $1 million. Had he known, Struna would argue later, he would have purchased fewer tickets each night.
He also accused the Ohio Lottery of false advertising and sued both the lottery and Singh to pay him $100,000 for each winning ticket.
Struna's case against the Lot tery was dismissed in Ohio's Court of Claims, said Struna's attorney, Andrew Kabat. It is being appealed.
But a Cuyahoga County jury ruled Wednesday against Singh in a civil case, awarding Struna more than $1.3 million.
Struna already received the $981,000 for his winning tickets.
Struna and Singh could not be reached for comment.
Singh's attorney, Gary Seewald, said Singh never misrepresented the rule and that Struna bore the sole responsibility for understanding the game.
Struna carried the rules in his pocket but refused to read those rules, Seewald said.
He said that each Buckeye Five ticket explains the cap and that the Lottery "does a fairly good job of publicizing their rules and I think people have an obligation not to be damn idiots."
But Kabat put on a strong case, Seewald said. "Absolutely, he deserves credit. He put together a winner."
Seewald said he will appeal the verdict because the jury's award could put his client out of business.
"It could literally destroy him," he said.