087: I Want it All, and I Want it Now

Stella Case No. 087, Originally Published: 12 January 2005

Louise Outing of Everett, Mass., is 94 years old, but she’s still pretty sharp. She even likes playing the lottery. And on September 4, 2004, she won $5.6 million in the Megabucks lottery drawing.

Massachusetts Lottery rules state that winnings are payable over 20 years. “In March, I will be 95 years old. Do you realize that?” she mused to a reporter. “Ninety-five in March. Now, you know I’m not going to live 20 years.”

The Mass Lottery’s Megabucks logo from 2004, and Outing’s winning numbers are announced on their web site. (Source for both: Archive.org)

Sure enough, with the help of attorney James Dilday of Boston, Outing sued the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, seeking a court order that it pay her the full amount of her winnings immediately.

“She is guaranteed a 20-year annuity with a net payment of $198,639” per year, says Joseph C. Sullivan, the executive director of the state lottery. In light of her age, he noted that any payments made after Outing’s death would go to “her beneficiaries, which in this case, if needed, would be the estate.”

“I would like the money so I can do what I want to do with it,” Outing said. “I think I’m entitled to it. I won. So I don’t understand why they don’t give it to me. They took my money, so they should give me what I got. I’ve got plenty to do with it.” She warned that if she lost her case, she would appeal. “I think it’s awful the way they are treating me, just awful.”

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There’s the case. How would you rule, as a juror in the Court of Public Opinion?

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Perhaps as an accommodation to her age, the Massachusetts Superior Court heard Outing’s case quite quickly.

Justice Barbara A. Dortch-Okara ruled that the state lottery’s rules are clear: winnings are paid out over 20 years, and there is no cause for forcing the lottery to change things for Outing.

“I expected that,” Outing said, apparently forgetting her feisty promise to appeal. “I’ll make out some kind of way.” Her lawyer was not as accommodating, however. “They just don’t care. They’re telling this woman to go take a hike.”

No, they’re telling Outing she’s no different from anyone else. The rules are clear, and the 20-year rule was printed on the very ticket that Outing cashed in. No one knows when they’ll die, even lottery winners. To make an exception for one lucky new millionaire opens the floodgates for rule-breaking by all.

Sources

  • “Lottery Winner, 94, Sues to Get it All Now”, Boston Globe, 29 December 2004.
  • “Lottery Winner, 94, Loses in Court”, Associated Press, 31 December 2004.

Case Status

Dismissed, as noted.

My 2021 Thoughts on the Case

Suing the lottery again?! Man a lot of money goes down the drain when “something for nothing” dreams are smashed. Which is, of course, the very theme of the True Stella Awards….

What struck me: after dismissal the plaintiff was not at all whiney …like her lawyer was.

The web site Lottery Post ran a story on Outing’s win, with one charming detail: “The staggeringly good fortune came her way after years of playing the lottery every day except Sunday, which she considers too holy for numbers games.” So… she’ll spend 1 day of her afterlife each week in heaven, and 6 in hell?

I found one very unauthoritative reference that said Outing died in 2006.

Note: This was the last 2004 case, even though it was not published online until just after the new year.

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13 Comments on “087: I Want it All, and I Want it Now

  1. Is this what you describe as “very unauthoritative”? Or did you just happen not to find it when you looked?

    Didn’t find it; I do consider that pretty authoritative. -rc

    Reply
  2. Some state lotteries give an option for winners payouts. The Washington lottery allows a choice of a 25 year annuity or a lump sum of 50% of the advertised amount. All of this is printed on the ticket, and of course upon the death of the recipient any unpaid annuity goes to their estate.

    Reply
    • Yes, but not this state apparently. If those were the rules printed on the ticket, then she could have taken the lump sum. If not, then she wins by the same rules she played by.

      Reply
      • MA has since changed its rules, and now allows lump-sum payouts. I wonder if that decision was influenced in any way by this case.

        Reply
  3. Obit and notes from the mortuary, where they mention her win. Nothing about the suit.

    Not authoritative, but as close as you can get without going to the Recorder’s Office.

    Yeah, that’s even more authoritative than Tom’s. -rc

    Reply
  4. In California at least you have a choice of the full amount paid over 20 years or a reduced amount (about half) paid immediately, $2,800,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

    Reply
  5. Would love to know how much the attorney charged her to fight with the lottery people. Doubtful he did it on a contingency basis. Dunno who’s more greedy.

    Interesting thought. -rc

    Reply
    • Considering how accepting of the dismissal she was, you have to wonder if the lawyer went to her and convinced her this was a good idea.

      Reply
  6. I am mostly wondering why you felt this fit a Stella Award.

    If I were 96 and had that winning, I would probably try to see if I could get them to give the lump sum too. She lost, and she acquiesced without making a bug fuss. She gets $190K per year, after whatever she paid the lawyer for the Hail Mary shot. She seems content, which is how I believe I would have responded after losing.

    Sure, maybe her lawyer could have told her the chances of winning were slim, but I don’t really think this rises to the level of the other Stella Awards you have given.

    If it’s impossible to win a case, and yet someone files a case anyway, taking up court time, then how is in not frivolous? -rc

    Reply
  7. Ohio’s “Classic Lotto” pays out over 30 years OR an immediate payout of half of the jackpot. The major interstate lotteries, MegaMillions and Powerball, pay out over 30 years OR an immediate payout of approximately 72% of the jackpot. Massachusetts is clear that there’s no choice. There is nothing unfair about Massachusetts’ method of payment — you can accept their terms, or not play.

    Shame on the lawyer for pursuing this case. If he didn’t take it on a contingency basis, her heirs should look to take action against him/her/it.

    Reply
  8. I don’t know if they were around 18 years ago, but today there are companies who’ll buy an annuity for a lump sum of cash. While that industry has its share of scummy operators; Louise would have been an ideal candidate.

    I’m pretty sure I saw in my source material that she rejected that option as taking too much of the pot in fees (and of course there are significant fees for the reasons outlined here). -rc

    Reply
  9. There are always people who will pay you cash now in return for the future income.

    I’m making numbers up, but it is something like: You won $100K a year for 10 years (ie., $1 million total), I’ll give you $500 now for all of that future income.

    Of course, it is “discounted” because they have to make a profit on their investment.

    And pay interest on the up-front money. -rc

    Reply
  10. I am told that, in cases like this, a bank is happy to give you a loan with the winnings as collateral. The bank might give you the loan for less than the total, but that is a known tradeoff. I am curious why she did not choose this path. My meager understanding is that this would avoid the big fees she objected to.

    Reply

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