Gamble leads to law suit

July 11, 2008
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Jeff Frazer and three of his buddies took a chance at beating the odds and winning at a Hoosier Lottery scratch-off game, Cash Blast. The top prize was $250,000. Believing the odds were in their favor, the four purchased at least $40,000 in tickets at $10 a pop, according to the lawsuit originally filed in January 2007. That’s right, they spent more than $40,000 on scratch off tickets because if they hit the big prize –they say seven were left at the time of their purchases – they would make back their money and make a nice profit.

After they bought the tickets, the Hoosier Lottery said there was only one prize left. Apparently, the lottery hadn’t updated the information quick enough, leading Frazer and friends to believe they had better odds of receiving their blast of cash.

Now, Frazer and another Hoosier, Jeff Koehlinger, have filed a suit that’s turned into a class action. They claim the Hoosier Lottery misrepresented the odds of winning, and according to postings on the Hoosier Lottery’s Web site in early 2007, “Despite the unintentional inaccurate reporting of prizes remaining, the overall odds of winning a prize in Game 743 were not compromised and were always 1:3.29.”

Frazer’s not alone in suing the lottery – other states’ lotteries have also been sued. According to news reports, college professor Scott Hoover filed suit for $85 million in Virginia against the Virginia Lottery for selling scratch off tickets after the top prize had been won to reimburse all the tickets sold over the last five years that had no chance of winning the top prize. In May, a New York woman filed suit against the New York State Lottery because the odds for a scratch-off game were misleading, according to reports.

The lottery has far more losers than winners and that’s why it’s a gamble when you plunk down $1 or $10,000 to try to win the big prize. On the other hand, if all or nearly all of the big prizes have been claimed, the odds have changed and the lottery is selling a ticket under false pretenses. People gamble to win big. Few people will pay $10 for a scratch-off game if they know the top prize is gone, which could be motivation for the lotteries to be slow to update the odds or remove the unsold tickets. Do these plaintiffs have a legitimate shot at winning their cases?
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  1. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  3. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  4. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  5. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

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