Law suit filed over Arkansas winning lottery ticket
UNDATED (WHDH) -- An Arkansas woman is in a legal battle to determine if the old saying "finders keepers" holds true when it comes to the lottery.
She thought she struck it rich when she found a winning lottery ticket in the trash. She cashed it in. But the original buyer is back in the picture.
As Sharon Jones sees it, it's simply a case of finders-keepers. And for more than a year, she's been a finder -- collecting discarded lottery tickets and entering the numbers on a website for a chance at secondary prizes, like magazine subscriptions.
She says she always gets the tickets from the store's trash.
“Any store I ever went into I ain't said nothing because they was in the trash can. Other people has got them out of the trash can too,” said Jones.
But when one of the tickets wouldn't enter last summer, Sharon called her husband to help figure out why.
“He just told me, he said, ‘I think this is a million dollar ticket,’ And I said, ‘There is no way, no way,’ I did not believe it at all,” said
A million dollars was theirs. For Sharon and William, laid off from his construction job, it felt like a miracle.
They had $680 thousand after taxes. The couple paid off credit cards, gave money to their children and -- for themselves, they bought a new truck.
“I mean, I was overwhelmed, ‘cause some good fortune had finally came my way,” Jones said.
But their joy was short-lived. A clerk at the convenience store where Sharon got the ticket sued for the money, saying the trash belonged to her.
Then another woman, Sharon Duncan, joined the suit, claiming she was the buyer and threw out the $20 scratch-off ticket only after the in-store machine she scanned it in told her it was not a winner.
The Arkansas Lottery Commission says the scanner worked properly.
“I'm sure they wanted to make clear that the scan, the ticket checker scanner did not break. It has never malfunctioned in this case and the testimony was clear that it did not break,” said Jimmy Simpson, Sharon Jones’ attorney.
So whose money is it? A judge ruled last week in favor of the women who threw the ticket in the trash -- saying she's entitled to the winnings.
Sharon Jones is devastated. With only $490 thousand of the original $680 thousand left, she says she could never come up with the rest.
And she doesn't feel she should have to, for taking something that was thrown-away.
Jones and her husband plan to appeal the judge's decision.