A Florida couple, who had been living together but were not married, enjoyed playing the lottery. Lynn Poirier and Howard Browning had a verbal agreement: if either of them ever had the winning lottery ticket, they would split the winnings.
The couple was not just part-time players; they would drive to Georgia and South Carolina to buy tickets to lotteries in those states too. They bought tickets often and even before Powerball existed. In June of 2007, they bought tickets for Florida Lottery’s Big Firecracker Millionaire Raffle, and this is where the trouble began.
According to Browning, they placed their tickets on the fireplace mantle; the drawing came and went and he noticed one of the tickets was missing. Not only that, but after the drawing on July 4, Poirier did not come home. The winning ticket is the one that was missing.
Poirier had collected the $750,000 in cash, and hadn’t returned home for a month. When she finally came home, Browning asked for his share of the winnings but Poirier refused to share.
Poirier claimed that she and Browning had broken up months earlier and were broken up when she bought the winning ticket. Browning sued her for breach of contract. She thought the oral agreement was protected by Florida’s Statute of Frauds, which states that if an oral agreement is not completed within a year, it must be put in writing to remain viable. Their agreement was not written down.
So, the question is: did Poirier have to honor the original agreement she made with Browning?
As it turns out, yes she did. Browning had to take his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court who ruled that because the verbal agreement could have been completed within one year, it didn’t need to be in writing to be enforceable.
Browning’s attorney calls it a hollow victory because after all was said and done, Poirier claimed she was broke and filed for bankruptcy. Browning is now contesting that claim.
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