US man sues lottery after being told $340m win is erroron February 20, 2024 at 4:53 am

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“I know the justice system will prevail,” he says – but the lottery claims to have posted his numbers in error.

Empty PowerBall lottery cards in a display at Best Beer, Wine and Deli in Gaithersburg, Md., USA on January 11, 2015Image source, Getty Images

A Washington DC man who thought he won a jackpot worth $340m (£270m) has sued Powerball and the DC Lottery, who claim they published his numbers by mistake.

John Cheeks said he felt “numb” when he first saw Powerball’s winning numbers matched his ticket in January 2023.

But when Mr Cheeks presented his ticket to the Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG), his claim was denied.

“One of the claims agents told me my ticket was no good, just to throw it in the trash can,” he told the BBC.

Instead, Mr Cheeks held on to that ticket and found a lawyer.

He is now suing the lottery for damages, in the amount of the Powerball jackpot, plus the interest he would have earned on it per day – totalling $340m.

‘Accidental error’

According to court documents, Powerball and a lottery contractor, the DC-based Taoti Enterprises, claim the confusion arose from a technical error.

In a court filing, a Taoti employee said that on 6 January 2023 – the day Mr Cheeks bought his ticket – a quality assurance team was running tests on the website.

On that day, a set of test Powerball numbers, which matched Mr Cheeks’ numbers – was posted on the website “accidentally”, according to court documents. Those numbers remained online for three days, until 9 January.

The numbers online did not match the numbers that were drawn at the last lottery draw, according to the Taoti employee.

Neither Powerball or Taoti responded to the BBC’s request for comment.

Mr Cheeks is now suing on eight separate counts, including breach of contract, negligence, infliction of emotional distress. and fraud.

Mr Cheeks’ lawyer, Richard Evans, said in court documents that because the winning numbers matched Mr Cheeks’ numbers, he is entitled to the “entire jackpot”. Otherwise, Mr Evans said, Mr Cheeks is entitled to damages for the “gross negligence” of the lottery in posting erroneous lottery numbers.

“This lawsuit raises critical questions about the integrity and accountability of lottery operations and the safeguards – or lack thereof – against the type of errors that Powerball and the DC Lottery contend occurred in this case,” Mr Evans told the BBC in a statement.

“This is not merely about numbers on a website; it’s about the reliability of institutions that promise life-changing opportunities, while heavily profiting in the process,” he said.

Mr Cheeks told the BBC he is hopeful. “I know the justice system will prevail,” he said, adding that the lottery winnings would have been life-changing for him and his family.

If he wins, he plans to open a home trust bank, meant to assist aspiring home owners.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 23 February.

The odds of Mr Cheeks, or anyone, winning the jackpot are exceedingly rare, about one in 292.2 million. In comparison, the odds of being struck by lightning over the next year is 1 in 1.22 million, according to the US National Weather Service.

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