After two years of squabbling over the ownership of a $4 million winning scratch ticket, the litigants embroiled in a lawsuit agreed to a settlement in an effort to avoid another civil trial.
Julie Prive, a former clerk at an East Falmouth Tedeschi's convenience store, was sued by two customers, Raymond MacDonald and Monica Hertz, after she cashed in the scratch ticket in 2002.
MacDonald, 65, and Hertz each claim they bought and scratched the winning ticket at the store, then gave it to Prive believing it to be a losing ticket she could enter in the lottery's second-chance sweepstakes.
An exhaustive eight-day trial ended in a hung jury in August, and the parties contemplated taking the matter to court for the second time.
In the first move to "get the wheels moving" on the settlement, a Barnstable Superior Court judge agreed yesterday to release $50,000 put in an escrow account after Prive sold the Falmouth home she bought with her winnings last year.
MacDonald and Hertz, both of Falmouth, had put a lien on Prive's property in case they won a favorable jury verdict. The plaintiffs will receive $25,000; Prive and her husband, David, will get the other half. Prive has already collected $600,000 from the state.
The plaintiff's attorney, Tammy Arcuri, acknowledged to Judge Richard F. Connon that a settlement had been reached but refused to discuss details. "This begins the settlement process," she said. "But the rest is confidential."
When asked if he were pleased with the settlement, MacDonald, the only litigant in court yesterday, refused comment. MacDonald, who acknowledged he spent $100 a day on the lottery, won a $2 million jackpot from a scratch ticket in 1997.
Prive, 28, who moved her family out of Falmouth because of what she said was harassment about the case, said she is legally prohibited from discussing the settlement.
"I will say that I'm comfortable with it," she said at her home yesterday. "But I would've gone all the way and fought it until the end. I think I could've pushed it more and more."
The outspoken defendant listed a myriad of reasons why she decided to avoid another trial, including the financial burdens of another legal row.
"This has been emotionally draining on my family," she said. "It's been two years and we thought it best to let it go. It's time to stop this."
Prive had regularly collected discarded tickets and entered them in what was at the time a second-chance game designed to prdvent litter. She said she found the winner while double-checking the used tickets.
MacDonald and Hertz contend the winning ticket - No. 93 in a book of $10 tickets - was among the 45 tickets they bought that day.
Prive said she is expecting her third child in May and wants to spend more time with her family instead of in court. She said she is also assisting an ailing family member.
Prive said she plans to move her family out of Massachusetts after her baby is born.
"Nobody helped me with anything here," she said, adding that she sent letters to local officials and the secretary of state. "I don't want to put another dime into a place that has shut me out."
When asked whether she intends to play the lottery again, Prive was resolute. "I haven't bought one since that ticket and I don't intend to start," she said. She said she'll never scratch another ticket unless lottery laws are revamped.
"According to the law now, if you've ever received a lottery ticket for a birthday," she said, "the person who gave it to you is entitled to the winnings. The law is unclear and unfair."
During the trial, Prive took copious notes in order to write a book about her ordeal. She said there's no clause in the settlement that prdvents her from publishing her story.
"In fact, the settlement makes me want to do it more," she said coyly. "All I need is an author now."