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Law Humor: Lowering the Bar
Wife Sues For Share of Formerly Secret Lotto Prize
By Kevin Underhill
On May 15, a judge ruled against a Miami woman who had sued her husband to get a share of a $600,000 lottery prize he won. Donna Campbell said that last summer she began to suspect that her husband, Arnim Ramdass, was hiding something from her, apparently based on the fact that he had the phone disconnected and would not let her turn on the TV.
Maybe he just wanted them to spend more quality time together?
But no. It turned out that he was hiding something, namely the fact that he and 16 others at work had won shares of a $19 million jackpot in the Florida Lottery. His apparent plan to keep this a secret forever failed when he neglected two other sources of information, called "the mail" and "the Internet." Campbell said she "started putting everything together" when a postcard was delivered offering congratulations on the purchase of a new house, which was news to her. One Google search later, all was revealed. "I said, 'Do you have any news you want to share with me?'" Campbell recalled telling her husband. "He said, 'No. What are you talking about?' I said, 'The lottery.'"
Mr. Ramdass then did the only logical thing to do in that situation: he disappeared. After hiding out for several months, however, he returned to his job and eventually even came home. The two are still married. But according to Campbell's attorney, they "run into each other at the house but do not speak or e-mail or otherwise interact."
They are at least able to communicate by exchanging legal pleadings. In her lawsuit, Campbell alleges that in June 2007, "Ramdass devised a scheme to avoid sharing any of his share of the lottery money with Campbell (hereinafter referred to as 'the scheme')." "The scheme" allegedly involved the cooperation of Janelle Ramdass, a daughter from a prior marriage, who claimed the money and then transferred it back to her father. Campbell claimed essentially that this was a fraudulent transfer of money in which she had a 50% interest.
Mr. Ramdass moved to dismiss on the grounds that Campbell has no claim to the money except potential equitable claims arising from the marital relationship, so that her only remedy, if any, would be to seek the money in the course of divorce proceedings. She doesn't want to do that - at least not yet. As the Miami Herald reported, "Campbell has maintained that she wants to sue her husband for fraud first and divorce him afterward."
On May 15, a judge agreed with Mr. Ramdass, although she gave Campbell 20 days to amend her complaint. Unless she can allege that the lottery ticket was bought with money from her husband's salary - considered a marital asset under Florida law - the judge held that Campbell "has no identifiable legal rights" to the money. My guess is that Round Two will begin in the next couple of weeks.
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