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Man agrees to share $1 million ticket from trash

An 83-year-old man who found a winning $1 million lottery ticket in the trash has settled a suit by the family of the man who lost the ticket because he feared he'd die before the legal wrangling was over and he'd never get to enjoy the money.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An 83-year-old man who found a winning $1 million lottery ticket in the trash has settled a suit by the family of the man who lost the ticket.

An attorney for Edward St. John said his client settled for $140,000 with the estate of Kevin Donovan because he wanted to enjoy his windfall before he died.

Worcester Superior Court Judge Paul Agnes approved the settlement Tuesday.

St. John's attorney, Scott Ambler, said it was difficult for St. John to agree to the settlement because he believed the entire prize was his. But Ambler said that Donovan's estate could have conceivably kept the case in court for so long that St. John might have died before it was resolved.

"The writing was on the wall," Ambler told The Call of Woonsocket, R.I. "If they didn't win this time, they would have appealed again. If Mr. St. John had passed away before he got a chance to enjoy anything, that would have been the biggest shame of all."

St. John has said he offered Donovan's estate a third of the prize, but they rejected the deal.

St. John found the "Hold 'em Poker" scratch ticket in October 2005 while searching through the trash at a local convenience store for discarded winning tickets, something he regularly did. Donovan said he had bought every "Hold 'em Poker" ticket in the store earlier in the day but didn't realize he had the winning ticket and threw it away.

Lottery agency backs finder
Donovan protested St. John's claim to the winnings before the Massachusetts Lottery Commission, but the commission rejected his claim in April, ruling that a lottery ticket is like legal tender and certain kinds of bonds — possession is all that is required to prove ownership.

Shortly afterward, Donovan, 49, died of a heart attack. His surviving children then challenged the commission's ruling in court.

Under the settlement, St. John gets $43,000 annually for 20 years, before taxes, while Donovan's estate gets $7,000.

The lawyer for Donovan's estate, Daniel T. Doyle, did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

St. John, who said he settled on the advice of his lawyer, told The Call he will share the money with an older brother but has no other plans for it.

St. John also indicated his windfall might force him to move because he lives in subsidized housing where tenants must fall within income limits that he may now exceed.