In a warning screed penned by the Associated Press' Jessica Gresko (not a lottery winner), "Numerous group winners have been sued by people claiming to have pitched in for the ticket, creating messy fights over what money will be left once the attorneys are paid. And most state lotteries don't give much official guidance on how to avoid such problems." These fights involve lawsuits, the deterioration of friendships, the breakdown of business relationships, and being in the papers in an unflattering way. Take the case of the Connecticut businessmen who split the Power Ball lottery and then were sort of ridiculed in public for, possibly, having only been collecting the money for a client. Or the situation in which five construction workers claimed their colleague cheated them out of a $38.5 million jackpot in 2009. (The construction workers were awarded $4 million each after taking their former buddy to court.) Or another group of employees at a Florida country club—one of the regular pool members wasn't there the day money was collected for tickets, even though she'd been playing for years. Now she's battling for a portion of the winnings.
Then there's the most recent case of Lotto feuding, in which one possible, highly suspect winner in Maryland, a McDonald's employee, claims she won all by herself, even though she won't produce the ticket, and she'd also bought tickets with a group as part of a restaurant pool. The ticket and the employee are now "in hiding" while 15 Maryland McDonald's employees "remain in financial limbo." Lawyers, get ready for a smackdown over emotional distress, if nothing else.
Too little, too late comes this advice from AP's Gresko: If you're buying a lottery ticket as part of a pool, come up with a system. Make a list of participants. Copy and distribute tickets to the members. Get it in writing. Have a lawyer on standby. Plan ahead. Don't go in without a prenup. What, are you crazy? Per Gresko:
"There have been disputed wins in just about every lottery in the country," said [Lottery spokesman Mike] Lang.
The bright side of all this, of course, is the schadenfreude it brings to the rest of us when the Lotto winners scuffle and claw it out among themselves. It's almost as if we've won the lottery ourselves—and all for the low, low price of less than a ticket.
But back to the winning ticket holders, where are you? And what happens if no one claims the $656 million prize, which means approximately $105 million for each of the three winners after taxes? "We've had no contact with the winner at this point in time," Kansas Lottery spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos told FoxNews.com early Tuesday.
What we do know: Winners in Maryland and Illinois have six months to claim the money; Kansas winners have up to a year. (Further, Maryland and Kansas will allow winners to remain anonymous, so we may never know who they are, though the Illinois winner will be identified.) And if no one claims the cash, per the California Lottery Mega Millions, "If a jackpot prize is not claimed within the required time limit, each of the participating states in the MEGA Millions game will get back all the money they contributed to that jackpot. Each state in the game uses unclaimed prizes for different purposes. In California unclaimed MEGA Millions jackpot prize funds are distributed to public education."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.