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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Breakup After Lotto May Cost Florida Winner

(CN) - A man whose live-in girlfriend refused to share a $1 million lottery prize can try to prove she made a deal to share with him, a Florida appeals court ruled.

Howard Browning and Lynn Anne Poirier started living together in a romantic relationship in 1991. Poirier hit the lottery jackpot 16 years later on the Fourth of July but refused to share the windfall.

Browning sued her for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, claiming they had an oral agreement to share lottery winnings since 1992, no matter who bought the tickets.

Poirier denied the existence of a contract and argued that Browning's claim should be barred by the statute of frauds.

A Seminole County judge agreed, citing the fact that the contract was not written, which was required for a deal that was more than a year old.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal's Daytona Beach-based District revived some claims.

"Contracts for an indefinite period generally do not fall within the statute of frauds," Judge Bruce Jacobus wrote for the majority.

"The line distinguishing these types of cases can sometimes be unclear. However, we are confident that the oral contract in this case is not barred by the statute of frauds because there is no evidence the contract (as opposed to the relationship) was intended to last for a period of more than a year," Jacobus added.

In addition to the breach of contract claim, the court also reinstated Browning's unjust enrichment claim.

"Once it is shown an express contract exists, the claim for unjust enrichment necessarily fails," Jacobus wrote. "Here, however, Poirier denied the existence of an express contract, and the jury has yet to determine whether and express contract exists."

Though he agreed the case should be remanded for a new trial Judge Thomas Sawaya partly dissented on one issue.

"Regarding the part of the majority opinion that declares the statute of frauds inapplicable, I respectfully dissent because I believe that is an issue for the trial of fact to decide," he wrote.

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