Patterico's Pontifications


“Finders Keepers” Principle in Jeopardy After Judge Snatches Lottery Prize from Woman Who Found Ticket in Trashcan

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:24 am

Alternate post title: Frivolous Lawsuit of the Day 2:

When she plucked a winning lottery ticket out of the trash, Sharon Jones’ luck changed instantly. The $1 million prize let her pay off debts, give thousands of dollars to her children and buy a gleaming new pickup truck.

But now her jackpot is in jeopardy. A judge ruled this week that the money belongs to another woman, who says she threw the ticket away after a lottery machine incorrectly told her it was a loser. The Arkansas Lottery Commission insists there are no problems with its equipment.

A discarded lottery ticket is at the center of a million dollar dispute in Arkansas. A woman who found the ticket in the trash received the prize from the state lottery commission, but a judge says the ticket belongs to the woman who bought it.

The winner in the lawsuit says she threw away the ticket after an electronic scanner told her she had lost:

Sharon Jones claimed the $1 million prize last July, turning in a scratch-off “Diamond Dazzler” ticket that the other woman, Sharon Duncan, said she purchased earlier at the Super 1 Stop convenience store in Beebe, about 35 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Duncan told a judge she discarded the ticket after an electronic scanner told her it was “not a winner.”

“And then the next thing you know, 10 months later, you’re fighting for something that was trash,” William Jones said.

It’s not clear how Duncan proves she bought the ticket, especially in light of this:

White County Judge Thomas Hughes concluded that Duncan bought the winning ticket, even though lottery records and store security video didn’t synch up to the precise timing of the purchase. He ruled that Duncan never abandoned her right to claim the winnings.

“The $1 million was never found money,” the judge said Tuesday.

My favorite part of the story isn’t in the linked article, but I know I saw it the other day and just can’t find the link: the store owner also sued for ownership of the ticket.

Hey, why not?

If this doesn’t provoke a lively debate then I have no idea what could.

74 Responses to ““Finders Keepers” Principle in Jeopardy After Judge Snatches Lottery Prize from Woman Who Found Ticket in Trashcan”

  1. I think we need pictures.

    JD (3e80ca)

  2. Obama is my soul, Obama is my god, Obama is ….hey this is what you get when you live in Jan Schakowsk’s district.

    Ipso Fatso (7434b9)

  3. I thought Charles Johnson bought that ticket.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  4. “Thatttt’s the ticket ! And by the way, Obama is a f*****g a**h**e !”


    Jon Lovitz

    Elephant Stone (0ae97d)

  5. I just found a million dollars
    that someone forgot
    It’s days like this that push me o’er the brinks

    — Guns ‘N’ Roses

    Once again, greed trumps morality.

    Icy (486a22)

  6. If you throw out an old briefcase that has $1000 in it, but you forgot the $1000 was in it, is the $1000 “found money “? Ie: do you give up your right to the briefcase only? Or both? Legally I mean…

    Alex (937436)

  7. The finding by the judge that Sharon Duncan bought the ticket without any (afaik) proof is one of the most asinine things I have ever seen :)

    Lord Nazh (821ae1)

  8. What do you mean I can’t deposit this Gov’t check made out to Solyndra into my account?
    It was in the trash, just like the company.

    AD-RtR/OS! (b8ab92)

  9. In all likelihood, the shop owner rigged the machine to fail and would collect the “bad” tickets and claim them through a scam.

    David (a4958f)

  10. I mean… “Finders Keepers” is always qualified, right? The main principle in law of find is that a finder has claim good against everyone but a prior possessor. The weird thing here is that the judge rule that the ticket wasn’t “abandoned.” Seems abandoned to me. Must’ve thought that the women couldn’t “abandon” what she hadn’t accurately comprehended.

    Leviticus (870be5)

  11. Turns out all those prom night dumpster babies weren’t abandoned after all?

    If the ticket was in the trash, does the city’s waste management have right to claim it as theirs?

    Or does this mean I can sue the trash company for stealing all my garbage from the curb?

    Ghost (6f9de7)

  12. This story needs the word “trailer” in it.

    nk (875f57)

  13. I keep going back to wondering why someone would be going through trash cans looking for discarded lottery tickets.

    JD (d3eecb)

  14. Aren’t they 2 separate issues? The scanner gives false security – sue the State. The trash picker gets to keep her find.

    Amy Shulkusky (67fbd5)

  15. I keep going back to wondering why someone would be going through trash cans looking for discarded lottery tickets.

    have you every been 35 miles northeast of Little Rock?

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  16. *ever* been I mean

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  17. Maybe this is obvious to those who buy lottery tickets, but how would the woman who discarded the ticket even know that the winning ticket was the one she threw away (and how could she ever prove it?), or even that the winner found the ticket?

    lasue (b5a1cf)

  18. if she picked her own numbers and there was only one winner is the only way she would know I think

    this whole fiasco is a good argument for making the default option everywhere to be that winners are allowed to remain anonymous

    in a lot of states you don’t have that choice at all, California being one of them I think

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  19. if she picked her own numbers and there was only one winner is the only way she would know I think

    no… all she had to do was pick her own numbers then I think they always tell you where the ticket was sold

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  20. Does this mean all those people who are convicted of drug trafficking crimes, old bank robberies, tax evasion, etc., because someone notices they’re living way beyond their declared legal income and the cops go through their financial records after they put out the trash can get their convictions overturned? After all, the cops “stole” paperwork they never intended to abandon.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  21. In all likelihood, the shop owner rigged the machine to fail and would collect the “bad” tickets and claim them through a scam.
    Comment by David — 5/4/2012 @ 10:14 am

    — That’s the MOST likely scenario?

    Icy (486a22)

  22. Reminds me somewhat of Goddard v. Winchell, 52 N.W. 1124 (Iowa 1892), which was the topic of my very first class as a law student in the fall of 1977.

    It would seem to me that in equity, Ms. Duncan’s claim ought to be estopped based on her own negligence in throwing away the winning ticket. Ms. Duncan might possibly have an action over against the store if its clerk, in the course and scope of its business, was indeed negligent herself and gave Ms. Duncan misinformation when she allegedly said the ticket was not a winner.

    It also seems to me that somewhere in the boilerplate (possibly incorporated by reference), the lottery commission’s rules ought to anticipate and resolve these kinds of dispute, both vis-a-vis Ms. Duncan versus the store and Ms. Duncan versus Ms. Jones, as a matter of contract law. If so, that ought to trump whatever result might otherwise be reached by the court sitting in equity and in its discretionary (subjective) decision as to what’s fair.

    Side note: Property law cases, more than any other enduring branch of the law, still oblige the use of somewhat antiquated phrases and concepts like “action over” and “sitting in equity” and “estopped.” In most other areas of the law, it’s somewhat suspicious if a lawyer today is relying on cases from, say, the Iowa Supreme Court in 1892. But even in modern property litigation, one ends up being obliged to rely on old precedents quite a bit, which reflects a generally commendable disinclination of courts to tinker much with basic property law concepts.

    Beldar (a3158b)

  23. Trover! Replevin! How could I have omitted those from my examples of arcane property-law terms!

    If I ever have a dog who is capable of retrieving a ball, I shall name him “Trover.”

    Beldar (a3158b)

  24. Jurisdictions combining the Doctrine of the Destructibility of Contingent Remainders with the Rule Against Perpetuities…

    That was one on our exam on Monday.

    Seisin! Feoffment!

    Leviticus (870be5)

  25. She would know if she picked the numbers but others wouldn’t know unless she picked them every week, recorded them maybe, mentioned them in an e-mail or text message to someone.

    This story does not tell us what was the evidence – if she had any prooff – any signs.

    Sammy Finkelman (0dadb5)

  26. It seems to me like an abandoned property case, at best. And if the lottery in that trailer park is anything like my 7-11’s, possession is ten points of the law. The lottery has a stake in “no tickee, no laundry”.

    Store clerk owed her no duty other than not to have a slippery floor.

    (Lady who has the ticket should have kept her mouth about how she came to have the ticket, BTW.)

    nk (875f57)

  27. I say they solve it in Thunderdome.

    LYT (191703)

  28. It was a scratch-off so no picking of numbers was involved.

    kaf (c41574)

  29. Luckily, there is no danger to the “losers weepers” principle.

    Richard Grenell (bf8ad7)

  30. Obviously, the original purchaser merely placed the winning ticket in the trash for safekeeping. Doesn’t everyone store their winning tickets in the trash?

    navyvet (f5da59)

  31. It was a scratch-off so no picking of numbers was involved.

    then I wonder how Mr. Judge can discern without a doubt who bought the ticket

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  32. I’m with David #9. We aren’t being told all the facts. It seems clear that if you put something in the trash, you’ve abandoned it, unless you decided to put it in the trash based on the fraudulent actions of, or false information from another.

    Ken in Camarillo (645bed)

  33. Upon further reflection, isn’t there a principle that obvious mistakes are corrected if adequately documented? The question becomes, how do you know the story is true, not some made up scenario to glom onto the money?

    Ken in Camarillo (645bed)

  34. Happy @31; that was what I wanted to know (and still don’t) :)

    Lord Nazh (821ae1)

  35. Sometime finders keepers can become weepers.

    Last year, I was on a public shooting range. It’s way out in the woods – no roof, no water, no facilities at all. Two guys drove up and unloaded a dozen guns. One of the guys was either a cop or ex military; the other, in his 70s, looked like a college prof.

    The prof was clueless. He waved muzzles all over the place. MAC-9 kept jamming. One of the prof’s guns was a Weatherby Vanguard .223 in stainless steel with a plastic stock. (Vanguards are $400 Howa guns not to be confused with beautiful walnut Weatherby Mark Vs.) He opened the box and shot the gun with no sights!

    Ten minutes after they left, I noticed they had left the box. The rule is what you bring you take home or put in the trash. When I went to toss the box, rifle was in it. They said they needed gas, so I picked up the box and drove to the closest gas station. They weren’t there. Finding a firearm is not like finding a two by four. If someone calls it in as missing or stolen and you show up with it in your possession, in Alabama it’s a felony.

    The range is patrolled by Alabama game officers, so I drove to Pea Ridge. The only one in the station was a black lab puppy. The next day, I went back to Pea Ridge. The puppy wasn’t there. I took the gun to our police station. No jurisdiction. They sent me up to Helena; same story. The range in in Shelby County, so I drove to the county seat. The deputy sheriff filed a report and took the weapon.

    What I should have done was take out my cell phone and call 911 and ask for the sheriff. They would have dispatched a deputy to the range, done the paperwork and I would not have spent half a tank of gas.

    Arch (0baa7b)

  36. then I wonder how Mr. Judge can discern without a doubt who bought the ticket

    Comment by happyfeet

    Probably just a preponderance of evidence.

    But I bet there is a reason.

    Dustin (330eed)

  37. I’ve got to ask, how much was this judge offered to rule for the plaintiff? Because I can’t see how anybody could honestly reach this conclusion.

    For what it’s worth, I’m looking at a NY lottery ticket right now, and on the back it says clearly: “This ticket is a bearer instrument”. I would be astonished if AR lottery tickets don’t say the same thing. Does the judge not understand that term?

    Milhouse (312124)

  38. Vanguards are $400 Howa guns not to be confused with beautiful walnut Weatherby Mark Vs.

    I have to make a brief digression and stick up for Japanese gunmakers.

    Companies like Howa can make really good guns. They’ll also make whatever companies like Weatherby want them to make. If a company like Weatherby approaches them and says, “we want you to build rifles we can sell at this price point,” Howa responds, “ok, we can do that, and it will look like this.” Or, a company like Browning approaches Miroku and says, “we want an over/under shotgun that looks like this” and Miroku replies “ok, we can do that, at it will cost this per unit.”

    I’m not a fan of Weatherby. But I have a couple of Orion shotguns. And a couple of SKB shotguns. They’re the same thing, right down to the engraving. Well, the Weatherbys have Prince Edward pistol grips and you can’t get those on SKBs. I suppose that’s how Weatherby put its unique stamp on those shotguns to mark them as their own. That and stamping the barrels with a Weatherby name and address as opposed to a SKB name and address.

    Vanguards may be $400 pieces of crap, but that isn’t because they’re made by Howa. It’s because that’s what Weatherby wants to sell. I can pretty much guarantee that if someone approached Howa about making a run of double nitro express rifles built to such a standard that you’d need a magnifying glass to tell it apart from a London gun, they wouldn’t blink and instead just quote you a price.

    Anyways, that’s my plug for Japanese gunmakers. They know how to make guns, but they’re in the business to make money. If Weatherby will pay them to make an ugly rifle, they’ll make an ugly rifle.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  39. Milhouse @37; all the lottery tickets are like that, the lottery commission even stated that when they paid the bearer of the ticket the one million dollars (dr. evil voice)

    Lord Nazh (821ae1)

  40. Good to see you around, Milhouse.

    Dustin (330eed)

  41. Steve #38,

    One of my three autoloaders was a Japanese made BAR. Beautiful thing. It had the Browning stamp, don’t know the actual manufacturer.

    nk (875f57)

  42. One of my three autoloaders was a Japanese made BAR. Beautiful thing. It had the Browning stamp, don’t know the actual manufacturer.

    The Japanese could, did, and do build nice guns. I have a few A5s. One’s a sweet 16, one’s a light 12, one’s 12 magnum. And one’s Belgian but I don’t know which. The others are Japanese. I have a hard time telling the difference, and an even harder time figuring out why I should care.

    The “last ditch” weapons weren’t the finest examples of the breed, but an Arisaka can be and generally is a well put together rifle. The thing I like about Japanese guns, especially he military ones, is that the manufacturers knew who was going to end up with them. A bunch of guys off the rice farm who’d likely, if they were in any way technically proficient, be hauling the parts that would later comprise a Mitsubishi Zero in an ox cart to the air field.

    I have a type 26 Nambu revolver. You can take it apart without tools. If you can wrap your mind around such complicated concepts as a hammer and an anvil, you can maintain it under field conditions.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  43. My father was a 6.5mm fan, he liked it better than the 8mm, but down there all we could get was a Carcano. I haunted the gun shows for an Arisaka, for a while, but you know …. Sears, for an off the shelf Remington 700. 😉

    nk (875f57)

  44. To Greeks, used to the 6.5 Mannlicher, if you could get the cartridge to sit so the firing pin could reach it, it was good enough. My grandfather carried one from 1912 to 1914.

    My daddy was not like that. He could shoot anything out of the sky with a very beautiful damascus-barrel Italian-made front-loader. He liked the penetration qualities of the 6.5mm.

    nk (875f57)

  45. I’m not Greek myself. My attitude is that if heaven doesn’t involve bazouki music and a glass of retsina, it can’t be more than a couple of hundred yards away. You can at least see it from there.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  46. Hell is where they play bagpipes and beat you until you clean your plate of Haggis.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  47. bazouki music and a glass of retsina

    You can find tons of bouzouki music on YouTube. I play it myself, kind of, it lends itself very well to improvisation, you only need to pick a mode, eight notes, and know something about harmony (if you want to add it).

    Retsina is a fine wine for the price. I get it at fresh markets.

    nk (875f57)

  48. On my father’s side of the family, they play the gaida, a bagpipe. I loved my mother’s ragout made from lamb inards, dill, parsley, and tomato.

    I got my daughter a cheap Pakistani bagpipe. She used the chanter only. Now she is taking recorder and piano lessons.

    I like the bagpipe. Only nine fingerable notes, but four tunable drones, and bending with the breath. We made our own reeds from bamboo, yogurt cups, telephone wire, and kite string.

    nk (875f57)

  49. I was being facetious about the bagpipes. Not so much about the Haggis.

    Q: What wine goes best with Haggis?

    A: A fifth of Scotch, chugged at least an hour ahead of time. So you don’t remember you ate Haggis.

    As far as the 6.5mm goes, it was blessed with a long-for-caliber bullet. And not by accident, either. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s dancing in the same disco as a 200 grain .30 caliber bullet. And if you can’t kill it with a 250 grain .338, you need to consider making peace with the aliens.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  50. Or calling in artillery or maybe an air strike.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  51. I agree. I am a .308 fan. 168 Match.

    nk (875f57)

  52. I hit an elk with a 6.5 x 55 once. DRT.

    SPQR (8505c6)

  53. if someone approached Howa about making a run of double nitro express rifles built to such a standard that you’d need a magnifying glass to tell it apart from a London gun,

    I just got aroused.

    JD (318f81)

  54. Quick, before the conversation goes all the way to guns, the stnadard by which bouzouki music is judged: Safe everywhere.

    nk (875f57)

  55. Sako 30.06!

    Colonel Haiku (bf42d7)

  56. The Sako is a fine action, too pricey for a young lawyer. My BAR was .30-06. I got decent groups with the .308 Mausers. I got patterns with the AK.

    nk (875f57)

  57. Quick, before the conversation goes all the way to guns…

    We’re going to guns, Mav!

    Signed, the Ice Man.

    As long as we’re lying about our hunting prowess, let me toss this into the mix. I killed a Hartebeest at 330 yards with one shot to the heart. Namibia. Forget the year. It was one of them there years when a southern African country won the Rugby world cup.

    It’s an involved story.Sometimes I imagine I shot the Hartebeest just to shut him up. It was a ways off. Over level ground we drove from my shooting position to where we potted the antelope. So I know it was xxx numbers of kilometers.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  58. “him” being a South African professional hunter. Who couldn’t shut up.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  59. nk, the Tikka is good value, same factory as Sako. I bought one in. 300 WSM for $350 some years ago that is most accurate bolt gun out of the box I’ve owned.

    SPQR (ed96d7)

  60. I have only hunted paper since age 25, and then it was just birds (maybe a small mammal too). I just like the shooting and the guns. And there’s no way I can navigate a field, now.

    nk (875f57)

  61. I’ve got a 721 that I inherited. Now it’s got a
    Canjar trigger and a M70 safety. I wouldn’t trade it for anything you can afford.

    Assuming, of course, you don’t routinely trade in small island nations. Then we can talk.


    Steve (8ab96a)

  62. Just in case I wasn’t clear, I’m willing to trade, straight up, a Remington 721 in .270 with a custom trigger and safety.

    Just to sweeten the pot, that small island nation doesn’t need to come with an air force to speak of.

    Toss in a couple of armed trainer turbo-props, and the rifle is YOURS.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  63. Won’t she, Mrs. Remington Steve, need to agree? You can’t just go and sell your significant other, for a few years now, in America. And have you legally divorced her? Bigamy is still a crime.

    I know what you mean. I have a sweet PPK/s in .22LR that I bought when 16 or so. I will sell my blood before I sell her. My brother will not tell anyone where he keeps his Remington 1100.

    My father thought the romance with weapons was a boy thing, but I see more than a few of our better nicer-smelling half on the range.

    nk (875f57)

  64. I think, maybe, if someone were to offer me a Super Tucano in exchange for my Remingtong M721 I could make the trade and keep my man card.

    I don’t know about you. But I never owned anything I could paint a shark’s mouth on and assassinate Admiral Yamamoto with. But if I did, I’d call it a weapon.

    Steve (8ab96a)

  65. Nothing Brazilian, including the trim trim, is manly.

    SPQR (546334)

  66. 65. Nothing Brazilian, including the trim trim, is manly.

    I’ve long been a fan of the sheer unmanliness of things Brazilian. I came to terms long ago with my heterosexuality, and can now confess that if it looked manly in that thong, I wouldn’t have bought it a beer.

    As far as the Super Tucano goes, we’re just going to have to disagree. I am, in all seriousness, perfectly willing to trade straight-up a Remington M721 for one of those. Theoretically, I am an American. So if someone wants to pony up a Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 I’ll toss in a Winchester M12.

    I am nothing if not a patriot. Except when Brazilian women are involved. Then all bets are off.

    Steve (90e0d3)

  67. Just to be clear, for an American made product that can put bombs on target, you get a rifle AND a shotgun.

    Steve (90e0d3)

  68. Steve, by “Mrs. Remington Steve”, I meant the 721. I was not impugning your manliness, I was implying that you were in love with the 721, from what you wrote. All guns and cars are “she” to me.

    nk (875f57)

  69. SPQR, I had a very nice Taurus .38 that I carried in my right back pocket for a while. I liked it enough to carry it for self-defense (don’t ask), but not so much that I would not ditch it if I spotted a police car.

    I would like a Rossi 92, just because. The SASS spaghetti guns don’t toast my muffins.

    nk (875f57)

  70. Impugn my manliness all you want, as long as it involves me getting a heavily armed airplane.

    Or a Brazilian woman.

    I just find it amusing that someone brings up the “unmanliness” of things Brazilian.


    I could argue the point. I think a Rossi .357 Mag rifle is pretty freaking manly. But let’s leave that out. If I conceded the point, what am I out?

    I have the search skills to book a vacation at a gay resort if I was so inclined to vacation in such a spot. It just never crossed my mind. At least, it didn’t until someone brought Brazil. Then I realized that when I pick a beach to recreate at, it’s probably the least manly spot you can imagine.

    It just never occurs to me to go where the guys in speedos are hanging out. It does occur to me to go where the girls in bikinis are hanging out. I suppose in this day and age that’s an indictment, but there it is.

    Steve (90e0d3)

  71. SPQR, I should probably pre-emptively apologize. I don’t usually have any difficulties with what you post. Maybe it’s just how you phrased it; I found it funny.

    nk, Taurus makes nice guns. I prefer a S&W Centennial. That’s just me.

    Steve (90e0d3)

  72. My next gun will be a Turnbull 1911, or something similar.

    JD (318f81)

  73. My next gun will probably be a 1780 Royal Navy Sea Service pistol. My last gun was a double barreled percussion Howdah gun. Dixie Gun Works was having a sale.

    I like a 1911 as much as the next guy. If I were to get another one, it would probably be a case-hardened Olympic arms version.

    I probably will get another one, at some point. I’m pleased as punch with the Howdah gun, though. Sure, it’s a muzzle loader. But if I had to defend the homestead with it, and I stuck that double .60 something caliber pistol into someone’s face, I doubt the miscreant would be pointing out all deficiencies in my choice of gun.

    Steve (90e0d3)

  74. So what kind of a looney judge is this? The one who decided that this other looney lady should be entitled to lottery winnings 10 months after the fact, although the lottery officials can’t prove that the gal even bought the ticket originally? HEY, I bought it!! Don’t worry that I haven’t been to AR in 30 years, I’m saying I gave the money to the gal to buy the ticket and she threw it away along with my address…. It’s mine – All mine!!! I know it’s AR. but is there some strange local relationship involved? The judge is sounding like a misfiring spark plug and if it was a murder case he was trying, I would be very scared for all the people involved.

    delanie (f5ef0e)

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