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Returning money on thrown out lottery ticket.

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http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/47321157/ns/today-today_news/t/she-may-have-return-k-trashed-lottery-ticket/

Synopsis: A woman bought a winning lottery ticket that was worth $1,000,000. A worker scanned it at the store and the machine said it was not a winner. She threw it out. Then another lady went digging through the trash and redeemed it. She recieved a $680,000 lump sum and now a judge is ordering her to pay it to the original owner even after she spent the money.

Regardless of the law, do you think that she should repay the original owner? What about if she hadn't spent the money yet, should she have handed over the check?

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Interesting situation. If the dumpster-diver had found the ticket on a park bench this would be an easier question. Normally, finding something in the trash indicates that the previous owner doesn't want the item. But the scanner malfunction complicates the issue. I'm thinking this is a situation that would be best resolved by the store or scanner company or lottery insuring themselves against scanner malfunction. I don't know exactly how that would play out. Perhaps the insurance company would pay the fees associated with recovering any unspent money from the dumpster-diver and pay the original owner the remainder.

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From the article, it looks like it was not a scanner malfunction, but the original owner failing to completely scratch-off the ticket. The person scanning the ticket also didn't notice the problem. I'd say it boils down to the local laws regarding who owns trash while it's in a bin waiting to be picked up. I think the original ticket holder lost any claims when they tossed it in the store's trash.

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The lotto machines here used to give no audible indication of a winner, and many were suspicious that store employees were keeping winning tickets (after announcing to the customer that they were losers, let me just throw that out for you). I even heard stories of employees having a tremor in their hand as they set the "loser" ticket aside. Of course one can guard against this by asking for the ticket back regardless. In any case, the machines now have a voice that cheerfully announces "You're a winner!"

Edited by Steve D'Ippolito
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