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Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 2:20 p.m.

Ark. judge orders new trial in lotto ticket suit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Arkansas judge on Thursday ordered a new trial to decide who can claim a $1 million scratch-off lottery ticket prize, a little more than three weeks after he ruled that a woman who said she bought the ticket but mistakenly discarded it was entitled to the money.
White County Circuit Judge Thomas Hughes ruled May 1 that Sharon Duncan should get the prize money, not two other women involved in the case. Hughes ordered the new trial in a one-paragraph ruling that did not elaborate on his reasoning.
"After reviewing the actions of counsel appearing in this case, the court file and the record, this court, as authorized by the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure, orders a new trial to be held on all claims in this case," Hughes said in the order. A call to Hughes' office was not immediately returned.
Duncan said she purchased the "Diamond Dazzler" ticket at a convenience store in Beebe, about 35 miles northeast of Little Rock. She said the store's electronic scanner indicated she was not a winner, so she discarded the ticket. Sharon Jones, another customer at the store, subsequently picked up the ticket and claimed the winnings for herself.
Winston Collier, Jones' attorney, said he was confused about the judge's reason for ordering a new trial but pleased with the result. Collier said he had planned on requesting a new trial on Friday.
"We're fighting curiosity," Collier said about the ruling. "We're tempering it with our elation that our client has no longer lost a million dollars. We feel really good about our chances moving forward."
Duncan said she discarded the ticket after an electronic scanner told her it was not a winner. The state's Lottery Commission has defended the machine and says its equipment functions properly. The store's manager and owner sued Jones, claiming she illegally took the ticket from the bin. Duncan joined the lawsuit after the judge determined she may be the true owner of the ticket.
James "Red" Morgan, who represented Duncan and the store's manager in the case, declined to comment on the ruling.
"The judges make the decision and we'll adjust accordingly," he said.
Hughes ruled that the store's owner and manager weren't entitled to any of the winnings.
The Joneses said earlier this month that they had about $490,000 remaining from the $680,000 they received, after taxes, in the jackpot. They said that aside from buying a pickup truck, they gave tens of thousands of dollars to their children and thousands more to a relative who has a child with Down syndrome.

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