Alleged agreement to share lottery proceeds didn't have to be in writing, Florida Supreme Court says

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A Florida man who claims his former girlfriend violated an oral agreement to give him half of her lottery winnings will get a chance to prove his case because of a ruling on the statute of frauds.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the agreement to split any future lottery winnings didn’t have to be in writing because it was capable of being performed within a year. The decision is a victory for Howard Browning, who says his onetime girlfriend Lynn Anne Poirier kicked him out of her home after she won $1 million in the lottery in 2007 and refused to honor their agreement to pay him half the money.

The Florida statute of frauds states that no suit can be brought for violation of a contract that is “not to be performed within the space of one year from the making thereof” unless the agreement is in writing.

The Legal Profession Blog noted the opinion (PDF), while the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press have coverage.

Browning’s lawyer, Sean Sheppard, told the Tampa Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel that Poirier bought the winning ticket with Browning’s money when she and Browning were together at a convenience store. Browning also bought a ticket. The couple had dined together at a Red Lobster before they bought the tickets, Sheppard said.

Poirier’s lawyer, however, has said the couple had already broken up, and Poirier was living with her mother when she bought the winning ticket. Poirier maintained that she and Browning were together at the convenience store by chance.

Sheppard told the Sentinel that his client is thrilled by the ruling but concerned that Poirier has already spent the money. “Getting a judgment and collecting are two entirely different things,” Sheppard said.

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