Woman pulls winning lottery ticket out of the garbage, must return it

I’m confused by this ruling. To summarize: Woman rummages through a trash bin outside a convenience store and finds a $1 million winner. Another woman who claims to have purchased the ticket sues her and WINS.

I thought that it was pretty clearly established law that by intentionally placing an item in a trash can, you abandoned the property and anyone else could rightfully claim it. Am I missing something?

I agree that if you intentionally throw something into the trash, you are abandoning it.

But you can also argue that no one would intentionally throw a $1mil ticket into the trash - and therefore it was accidental. If you accidentally lose your wallet or drop it somewhere, and someone finds it, you should still retain ownership of said wallet.

Aren’t lottery tickets generally bearer documents anyways? At any rate, the finder is going to appeal and she should. The lottery investigated and determined she was the winner. The linked story even casts some doubts as to whether or not the woman claiming to be the winner actually bought the ticket.

I guess that’s where it gets tricky. The original purchaser claims that she had the clerk scan her ticket in the lottery terminal and it read that it was a loser, so she tossed it.

I would put this on par with having a 200 year old book that I think is a worthless piece of junk so I toss it and a guy picks it out of the trash and it turns out to be a masterpiece.

If her story is true, she may have a claim against the store that told her incorrectly, but since it was an innocent mistake, it would have to be some sort of negligence, but I don’t see a duty there…

But if it was $1M win, wouldn’t there be other ways for her to know it was the winning ticket without the scan? I’m not seeing the mis-scan as having any significance as to whether or not she tossed it.

Why doesn’t the maker of the scanner bear any responsibility? Scanning tickets to see if they’ve won is the ONLY function of the scanner, and it failed to do so correctly.

After rethinking this, I can see where the judge is coming from.

When you buy a lottery ticket, you’re buying the numbers, not the piece of paper itself. And no one believes that a person would intentionally throw away $1M.

It’s also as if someone goes through your garbage and finds $1M in cash. Would the finder now own that money, or would the legal system assume that the owner threw it out accidentally?

The article mentions the lottery ticket not being considered to be “found money”. I assume that’s a legal term for money that is found and that does not belong to anyone already.

I would think there would be precedents of such situations (people throwing out stuff they thought was junk but somebody else recognized as valuable) that would be applicable to this case.

Do you buy the numbers though? Your name does not appear on the ticket, nor is there any apparent record kept of a person buying a specific ticket. Surely you only ‘buy’ the numbers if you possess the paper they are printed on.

Besides, one is a bin raker and the other is apparently stupid and lazy. And they’re both called Sharon. 50/50 split! I shoulda been a judge…

lottery tickets are bearer instruments and short of fraud or theft, it seems to me that the dumpster diver has as much right to the ticket as someone who finds an unsigned picasso in the trash.

As I mentioned in another forum, this happend in MA, and the impoverished man who found the discarded ticket got to keep it.

ETA: According to this, the man eventually settled after a challenge in court, because he might have died before the case was resolved. But the initial ruling was in his favor.

The law regarding lottery tickets is more an issue of state law and lottery rules (which are mostly the same thing) than common law property doctrine.

The ruling appears to be based on the premise that the ticket buyer did not waive her right to claim the winnings when she threw away the ticket, not that she is the true owner of the ticket. As a matter of property law, the dumpster diver owns the physical ticket, but not necessarily the attendant rights.

Isn’t there a precedent, Finders & Keepers v. Losers & Weepers? Seems to me when you toss something in the trash, you lose your claim to it. If someone fishes something out of the trash and finds a winner, more power to them. What’s the proof that the purchaser purchased that specific ticket?

A follow up question:

Since the police have been known to use evidence that people have thrown away (i.e. DNA), is there any potential to overturn or dismiss evidence now gotten this way?

I am confused. How do we know the ‘purchaser’ is actually the one who bought the ticket? The story doesn’t say that the ticket was signed (or if it did, I missed it). I mean, she can’t say ‘I remembered the numbers’ because she had some time after the prize was announce to memorize them.

The linked article makes that questionable. I don’t know what laws apply, but it sounds sticky. I believe in the MA case, the ticket was found in the dumpster outside of the store, and the store owner claimed ownership, while the judge ruled once it’s in a dumpster it’s fair game for the next diver who comes along. In this case it sounds like the ticket was in a trash can in the store, which gives the store owner a pretty strong claim on it, but I guess he hasn’t figured that out yet.

Wait - the store owner/employee told the lady she had a losing ticket and then recovered it from the trash to ‘discover’ it was a winner?

Or was the dumpster diver a third party?

If the former - screw’m - that’s outright theft by deception.

A machine, probably owned by the lottery commission, told her the ticket was a loser.

In our city when an item is tossed into the dumpster it becomes the property of the trash company but I’ll conjecture that if the item is worth a million bucks and it get to court the city contract with the dumpster company just might get tossed by the judge.

I don’t think so. I think that the courts have made it clear trash is trash.