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Woman sues ex for half of $6 million lottery win after he left with ticket

Canadian Press THE CANADIAN PRESS

An Ontario woman is suing her former common-law partner for allegedly denying that the couple had won $6 million in a provincial lottery before claiming the full prize for himself.

The woman's lawsuit against her ex and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation alleges the winning ticket was purchased with the understanding that any winnings would be split between the two parties.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto family lawyer Katherine Robinson says when it comes to common-law spouses sharing assets, there are no automatic protections through the law if an asset is in one spouse's name only.

"To seek a share of the asset, the other spouse would need to advance a trust claim, as the woman did in this case," says Robinson, who is not involved in the matter and comments generally.

Robinson, an associate with Shulman Law Firm, says it they were married there is an automatic entitlement to sharing of property that is accumulated throughout the marriage, "which includes lottery winnings. There are certain limited exceptions, for example with short marriages, but the general rule is equal sharing of all assets and debts."

The woman's statement of claim alleges her ex-partner kept up a long-standing tradition and purchased a ticket for the Sept. 20, 2017 draw, but later denied that it was a winner.

Days later, she alleges he packed up his belongings, left their home and tried to redeem the winning ticket. The OLG has since paid the man half the prize while the rest remains in legal limbo.

The woman's suit accuses her ex-partner of breach of trust and unjust enrichment and seeks the roughly $3 million that would represent half the winnings from the lottery ticket, plus an additional half a million dollars in aggravated damages. She is asking that a jury hear her civil suit.

Representatives of OLG declined to offer specific comment on the suit, but the man's lawyer said his client denies there was ever an agreement in place with his former partner.

The lawyer said his client has readily complied with an OLG investigation into the matter and criticized the woman for not taking part in an agency arbitration process to resolve the dispute.

"There's a statement of claim, and there is the truth,'' the lawyer said in a telephone interview. "And the truth is that my client has participated with the OLG investigation in every respect, including offering to take a polygraph examination.''

He added that his client had gone through with the polygraph and passed "with flying colours.''

The woman's lawyer said his client decided to pursue a lawsuit in lieu of the arbitration process, arguing a court procedure would give both parties a better opportunity for a full investigation and fair hearing.

"The jury is critical in this,'' the woman's lawyer said. "I think this is a case where the public and the community needs to weigh in and say what they think is appropriate and what's acceptable in society.''

Her statement of claim alleges that she and her ex regularly bought lottery tickets together throughout their nearly two-year-long common-law relationship, with both members of the couple purchasing or paying for the tickets at different times.

The statement said both parties loved muscle cars and dreamed of purchasing a vehicle each, a piece of large country property near their home in Chatham, Ont., and a shop in which they could indulge their shared hobby. The statement of claim said both parties had an understanding that they would split any winnings that came from their lotto purchases.

On Sept. 20, 2017, the OLG announced that a $12 million prize was to be split between two tickets — one purchased in Quebec, the other in Chatham.

The statement of claim said the woman texted her common-law partner urging him to check whether their ticket was among the winners. He agreed to do so, but later told her and some of their mutual friends that they had not won anything, the statement alleges.

Three days later, the man told her he was driving to London, Ont., for a granite installation job. When she got home from work, however, the statement of claim alleged she found he had packed up his belongings and left their home.

"When [the woman] looks back, she recalls that he did approximately 15 loads of laundry of all his clothes the night prior, and didn't put them into the drawers and closets, as if [he] was preparing to pack up and leave,'' the document said.

Later that week, she alleges she got word from a mutual friend that the man had sent a text to his boss announcing the end of his relationship, giving in his notice and displaying a picture of the winning ticket.

She sought an injunction preventing the OLG from paying out the full amount. In January, the corporation paid the man half of the $6 million prize, since that sum was not in question.

OLG said it intended to pay the remaining money "into court,'' but said it could not offer further comment.

Robinson cautions that individuals can protect themselves by ensuring that both parties’ names are listed on any asset that they intend to share jointly, for example, title to a property or a bank account.

"For a lottery ticket, this can include both parties signing the ticket," she adds.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

— With files from AdvocateDaily.com



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