Court Orders Estranged Brothers to Split Lottery Winnings in Half

CARLISLE Pa. (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania jury decided on Wednesday that two estranged half brothers must equally divide the winnings from a $1 million lottery ticket after one of them claimed he deserved all the money and the other insisted he was due half of it.

Ira Sharp, 52, and Charles Meehan, 45, both of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, had been fighting over the ticket since it was purchased at a local bar on May 21, 2013. Sharp maintained that he had given a $20 bill to Meehan to buy the ticket with the understanding that they would split the money if they won.

It took barely an hour for the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas jury to decide that the two brothers did indeed have a valid oral contract to split the winnings.

“Once they said ‘yes’ to that, the rest was easy,” said R. Mark Thomas, Sharp’s lawyer.

Douglas Miller, Meehan’s attorney, said both he and his client were disappointed by the verdict.

“We know there wasn’t a contract,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, the jury didn’t believe that.”

The brothers have not spoken to one another since Sharp filed the lawsuit in the summer of 2013. Miller doubted there would be an appeal, noting that Meehan had initially wanted to give his brother some of the ticket proceeds, just not the half he demanded.

Tax issues will complicate the division of the winnings, both lawyers said. When Meehan cashed in the ticket on the morning after buying it, the Pennsylvania Lottery automatically deducted 25 percent for federal taxes, leaving $750,000.

Miller said Meehan subsequently paid $114,000 in additional taxes, leaving $636,000. The remainder has been tied up by court order since the summer of 2013.

Thomas wants his client to receive $500,000 of the remainder and pay his own taxes on it. That would mean that Meehan would have to petition the IRS to return some of the money already paid, which Miller said is a complicated procedure.