Court Takes Elderly Sisters' Jackpot Battle

When Theresa Sokaitis, 83, and her sister, Rose Bakaysa, 87, were younger, they would often hit the casinos and play the lottery together but that love of gambling has turned into an extreme case of sibling rivalry. Now, the state Supreme Court will have to solve the dispute.

On April 12, 1995, the sisters made a pact on paper that if one won -- from slot machines, cards, at Foxwoods casino or the lottery -- she'd share the winnings with the other.

In June 2005, it happened. Rose, who lives in Plainville, won a $500,000 Powerball payout. Instead of sharing it with Theresa, she shared it with her brother, who she says she bought the winning ticket with. According to court documents, the brother presented the ticket to lottery officials. 

Sokaitis, who lives in Cromwell, said she opened the newspaper one day in 2005 and saw the winning numbers, the same ones she and Bakaysa used to play together all the time.

So, Sokaitis sued her sis for breach of contract, starting what would become a long legal battle.

The trial court said the contract was unenforceable under state law. So Sokaitis filed an appeal and the extreme case of sibling rivalry went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Tuesday, the state Supreme Court released a decision saying Sokaitis can proceed with the lawsuit.

The statute says “all wagers … shall be void,” but the court decided that this cannot be the absolute law of a state that has authorized gambling, the court said. 

The court called public policy against gambling “ancient and deep-rooted” and anti-gambling law “a dusty relic of its former self.”

“It would be, in our view, contrary to the statutory scheme as a whole to conclude that an agreement to share the spoils of legal wagering is illegal and unenforceable,” the court ruled.

Bakaysa's lawyer argues that their contract doesn't mean anything since the two had a falling out a year before the winning Powerball ticket was bought.

Sokaitis' lawyer says it's less about the money and more about honoring the pact. Sokaitis feels betrayed and looks forward to settling the dispute in court, the lawyer said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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