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Court: elderly sisters' gambling pact forces lottery jackpot split

Feb 5, 2008, 12:36 am

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The Connecticut Appeals Court has ruled a 1995 pact struck by two widowed sisters to split each other's future gambling winnings is still binding despite the fact they no longer speak to one another.

The decision paves the way for a public family feud pitting Theresa Sokaitis, 81, against Rose Bakaysa, 85, over a $500,000 Powerball jackpot Bakaysa hit on June 18, 2005, but doesn't want to share with her estranged sibling.

Sokaitis is suing Bakaysa for breach of contract. Bakaysa's attorney, William Sweeney Jr., told the Herald in November Sokaitis is a "gold digger."

"We're going to go to trial court and battle it out," Sokaitis' Boston attorney, Sean Higgins, said. She was, he said, "extremely excited by the court's decision. She's obviously elated for the chance to prove that she is entitled to her share of the money."

Unlike Massachusetts, a bygone Connecticut law still frowns upon private wagering contracts. However, two appellate judges, in overruling Connecticut Superior Court Judge Patty Pittman's 2006 summary judgment awarding the money to Bakaysa, found the notarized agreement between the sisters was not induced by the guarantee of hard cash, "but rather their mutual promises to one another to share in any winnings they received."

Though Connecticut now widely embraces many forms of gambling, Appeals Court Judge William Lavery cast the lone dissenting vote against Sokaitis, stating in written remarks that "money" was the motivation behind the deal. "We must assume that it was the intent of the Legislature to continue to prohibit wagering contracts like the one at issue in this case," he said.

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