094: Testing, Testing, 1-2-3(-4-5-6)

Stella Case No. 094, Originally Published: 14 September 2005

Kelly Davis, 37, of Harvest, Alabama, likes to play the multi-state Powerball lottery. Alabama is not one of the 27 states that participates in Powerball, so Davis bought a $1 ticket in neighboring Tennessee for the April 21, 2004 drawing.

The numbers she played in an attempt beat the 1 in 146,107,962 odds to win the $90 million jackpot are reasonably easy to remember: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Davis was understandably excited when she called the Tennessee Lottery’s Powerball hotline to find out what numbers were drawn in Iowa that day. She says the recording reported they were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Dreams of the $90 million windfall danced in her head. She imagined “I’m paying bills off, taking care of my parents,” Davis said. But when she called the lottery’s Nashville offices to see about claiming the prize, she was told that the recording she apparently heard was a system test, not the actual numbers for the drawing that she had entered, which were 8, 11, 34, 42, 51 and 27. There was no winning ticket, she was told.

Win-Win-Win! And if you don’t, Sue-Sue-Sue!

“It’s a disappointment you can’t express,” Davis said. “Total disappointment.” Worse, she says, “I suffered. I suffered.”

No sense in suffering when your something-for-nothing dreams are shattered: she expressed her disappointment by hiring Huntsville attorney Clement J. Cartron, who filed a lawsuit on Davis’ behalf in Davidson County (Tenn.) Circuit Court. The suit requests a jury trial to determine how much Davis should be compensated for her “short-term physical discomfort and temporary total psychological injury.”

A “temporary total” injury? Yeah, whatever. That’s what the suit says.

The Powerball web site urges would-be winners to exercise caution. “Every attempt is made to ensure that this list of numbers is accurate,” the site says, but “the official winning numbers are recorded in the official draw files as certified by an independent accounting firm. Winning numbers are not official until confirmed by the auditing firm of LWBJ, LLP.”

Indeed, says a Tennessee Education Lottery spokesman, no ticket can ever be used to claim a prize until it has been validated by the Lottery, either by an official retailer in the case of a small-dollar winner, or at TEL headquarters in the case of winnings of $99,999 or more.

Quite simply, Davis did not have a winning ticket. The rules are clear, so that’s the end of her case. So why sue? Oh yeah: free $$$$!

“I just want them to step up to the plate and recognize they were negligent,” she says, and so that “the consumer calling in [can] know they’re getting the right information.” She says she knows she won’t win $90 million from the lawsuit, but she says a simple apology is just not good enough.

The Lottery makes it clear that nothing posted to its web site, its voice mail, or other places of convenience (such as a newspaper) is truly authoritative; no ticket is really a “winner” until it’s verified, and Davis’s wasn’t verified. Lottery rules spell out very clearly how one wins.

Davis ignored the Lottery’s advice and rules to her own peril. So who is responsible for her “disappointment” and “suffering”? That’s right: she is. For her to demand that someone else pay for it is just another symptom of expecting something for nothing, of being enriched without working, of demanding that others take responsibility for her. And she wants a court to enforce these pipe dreams.

But the real question remains: how in the world did she get a lawyer to go along with the delusion?

Sources

  • “Harvest Woman Files Suit over ‘Test’ Lottery Numbers”, Huntsville Times, 22 July 2005.
  • The Multi-State Lottery Association’s Powerball.com site.

Case Status

I searched, and found no denouement of this case. Based on Davis’s far-fetched argument, I have to believe it was tossed out very quickly because if it wasn’t, that would be news.

My 2021 Thoughts on the Case

Another lottery case?! It certainly seems the “something for nothing” crowd that expects very-long-odds gambling to solve all their problems is the same sort of person who expects very-long-odds lawsuits to solve all their problems, and somehow the clearly stated rules don’t apply to them, because they’re special.

Meanwhile, in 2009 Powerball moved its drawings from the Multi-State Lottery Association’s headquarters in Iowa to Florida.

Letters

About the case of woman suing a home improvement store because she was “attacked” by a bird that the store “allowed” to fly into their outdoor garden area.

David in Maine: “Your ‘Bird Brained’ story may well qualify as one the worst Stella cases I’ve ever read. Yes, I know, they’re ALL amazingly stupid, but this one takes the cake as regards any hope of finding even the remotest understanding of WHY. In many Stella cases, I can see a faint glimmer SOMEWHERE, but with the ‘Bird Brained’ case… what the HELL?! How the heck could ANYONE dive-bombed by a bird outside a [store] possibly find any faint glimmer that tells her [the store] was responsible? ‘This is True’ always amuses me, and Stella always makes me shake my head, but this one might be the first time I was ever truly flabbergasted by something. I’m starting to understand Shakespeare’s ‘Kill all the lawyers.’”

C’mon, David! How do you really feel?!

Several Europeans were quite taken with the lawyer’s noting that the bird “was no sparrow. The bird was described to us as being about the size of a robin or pigeon.” European robins are apparently pretty small. For example…

Paul in Scotland: “The most personally rewarding aspect of [the case] was that I was prompted to go and find out what an American robin looks like (its European namesake being a small, roughly sparrow-sized bird, making the lawyer’s description of the assailant as being about the size of a robin or pigeon sound wildly imprecise to me). So you can add encouraging interest in natural history to the list of accolades for the newsletter. I was, however, intrigued by another facet of the story: her list of injuries. Even if it was pigeon sized (and let’s give her the benefit of the doubt, [that it was] at the big-boned, steroid-abusing, iron-pumping Mr. Universe end of the pigeon magnitude spectrum), exactly what is it that the alleged avian attacker is supposed to have done? Backed a car over her? Worked her over with a lead pipe? Or were details omitted from the reports — did she perhaps run away in panic and fall down an open manhole? If not, then the litany of injuries recited by her attorney is ludicrous, and one would hope that the judge will dismiss the case, still crying tears of laughter as he fines her and her lawyer for contempt. The only credible handicap suffered by the plaintiff is loss of cognitive skills; I suspect, though, that further investigation will reveal that it is a chronic, possibly congenital condition that was already extant at the time of the incident in question.”

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6 Comments on “094: Testing, Testing, 1-2-3(-4-5-6)

  1. As to your real question of “how in the world did she get a lawyer to go along with the delusion?” the answer is easy & obvious. Her lawyer went along with it for whatever $$ he can get from her in fees, court costs, expert testimony, etc. Not to mention a *significant* (could be 1/4, 1/3, or maybe even more) share of whatever she might, by some miracle, win. Yes, the lawsuit was ridiculous & should never have been filed. But we both know (you from writing “True” & “True Stella Awards”, and me from avidly reading them) that some lawyers will file a lawsuit regardless of its merits.

    Then they’re obliviots. It costs lawyers time (=money) and expense to prepare and file a suit, so they must think about the chances of winning enough that their contingency percentage has a decent chance of making them a profit. This one had approximately no chance of winning, thus the costs are sunk. -rc

    Reply
    • Sometimes it’s not about the particular case making the lawyer money as it is about the advertising from a high profile case (and since people pay attention to the lottery this case would get some attention). If it draws in a case with better odds it’s worth the minimal effort taken to file the case — at least until courts start sanctioning lawyers for such bad faith filings.

      Plausible theory — or perhaps first-hand knowledge. -rc

      Reply
  2. Metaphoric ambulance-chaser lawyers who get onboard with hair-brained schemes like this are clearly accessories to attempted fraud. And as such, should be immediately disbarred and forbidden to work in any capacity in the legal industry. Shakespeare had a line in Macbeth “First thing we’ll do, let’s kill all the lawyers” for a good reason. Idiot lawyers have been doing this with no accountability long enough! So, first thing let’s do, let’s disbar all the shysters.

    A more reasonable take on Shakespeare’s idea! -rc

    Reply
  3. Of additional demerit, should the actual winning numbers turn out to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, the payout would have been dismal, shared by probably hundreds (thousands?) of winners: I have personally witnessed players at the lottery machine be at loss for thought and simply blurt out that convenient sequence.

    Not that $90K instead of $90M is nothing to sneeze at, yet my personal preference is to be paid at parity or better than the odds, which means I don’t play the lottery often. I believe RC has stated a few times lotteries are ‘a tax on people who are bad at math.’

    Good point: she certainly would have to split the prize with the hundreds (or thousands) of others that played the same numbers. -rc

    Reply
  4. For once a Stella Award case where I can understand the basis of the filing, even though I still do not agree with it. A call like that frankly should never be going out without it very clearly prefacing itself as a test, after all. There was definitely an error on the lottery side that they should have owned up to. (just ask Hawaii how important it is to NOT send erroneous messages to people!)

    But seriously, someone thinks this justified a lawsuit? Unless you were so distraught by the situation that you missed work you have no basis for one, and even then the only thing you could REMOTELY justify would be a small claims case for lost wages.

    It is way too easy to file a lawsuit in this country… (and at the same time, far too hard to win even when the litigant is obviously in the right).

    Just to be clear, no call went out. She called them, not that such a recording on a public call-in line is reasonable. -rc

    Reply

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