SEARCY, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas woman who cashed $1 million lottery ticket may have to give up the winnings to a woman who threw away the ticket after she bought it.
A judge ruled Tuesday that Sharon Duncan is entitled to the prize money, not Sharon Jones, who claimed the prize money after she took it from a trash can of discarded lottery tickets at a convenience store in Beebe.
Jones' attorney, James Simpson, said he plans to appeal the decision after Jones testified that she already spent some of the money on a new truck and cash gifts to her children.
Simpson said Duncan even testified that she threw the ticket away after the read-out on a ticket scanner said, "Sorry. Not a winner."
He said people cannot throw items away and then say, "'Ooh. I want to un-abandon it.' We'd have garage-sale law all over the place.
"It became trash when someone threw it away," Simpson said.
White County judge Thomas Hughes, meanwhile, said Jones never met the burden of proof that Duncan abandoned her right to claim $1 million.
"The $1 million was never found money," Hughes said.
Jones testified Tuesday that she gathered a handful of discarded tickets from the waste can — as she had done many times before — and said there was no sign alerting customers not to take tickets.
That contradicted Super 1 Stop store manager Lisa Petriches' earlier testimony that she had taped a sign that read "Do not take" on the can. A former store clerk testified that Petriches posted the sign only after Jones claimed the prize.
Petriches brought the lawsuit against Jones, and Duncan joined it after the judge said at a January hearing that she may be the true owner of the ticket.
Petriches and store owner, Louie Dajani — whose corporation, Summer One LLC, joined the suit — weren't entitled to anything, Hughes ruled.
The judge instructed the winning side to write the judgment for his signature, and it will become official once Hughes signs it. Then, Jones' attorneys will have 30 days to file an appeal.
Hughes found that the evidence weighed in Duncan's favor that she bought the winning ticket, even though lottery records and store security video didn't synch up to the precise timing of the purchase.
Arkansas Lottery Security Chief Lance Huey testified that he investigated the circumstances of the ticket falling into Jones' hands. He said the lottery was satisfied with the investigation and awarded the prize.
Duncan's attorney, James "Red" Morgan, argued that she simply made a mistake by throwing away a $1 million ticket and that the only right she willingly parted with was to enter the ticket for the possibility of a secondary prize.
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