Finders weepers, losers keepers in lottery ticket row

‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’ — a schoolyard cry that most people take for real.

Not so, according to the case of Sharon Duncan, a woman who dumped her ‘losing’ lottery ticket that turned out to be worth $1m (€760,000).

The finder, Sharon Jones — a woman who habitually gathered discarded tickets — will have to pay the money back, according to a ruling in Arkansas.

The judge decided that Duncan was entitled to the prize money, not Jones, who claimed the prize after she took the ticket from a bin-full of discarded lottery tickets at a shop near Little Rock.

Duncan testified she threw away the ticket after the read-out on a ticket scanner said: “Sorry. Not a winner.”

Jones’ attorney, James Simpson, argued that people shouldn’t be allowed to throw items away and then say, “‘ooh, I want to un-abandon it’”.

“We’d have garage-sale law all over the place,” he said. “It became trash when someone threw it away.”

White County judge Thomas Hughes, however, ruled that Duncan had not abandoned her right to claim $1m. “The $1m was never found money.”

Jones testified that she gathered a handful of discarded tickets — as she had done many times before — and said there was no sign alerting customers not to take tickets.

However, if finders want to abide by the law, they need to think carefully about who owns lost property.

In that respect, the law in Ireland accords with that in Britain where, in 2009, Wiltshire couple Amanda and Michael Stacey were handed down 11-month suspended sentences for cashing in a £30,000 lottery ticket found on a shop floor, and spending half of it.

They were also ordered to repay the remaining £15,000, plus £111 in interest, to Dorothy McDonagh, who was able to prove she had bought the ticket.


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