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Jury rules that estranged brothers must split $1M lottery prize

Jul 16, 2014, 5:34 pm

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Pennsylvania Lottery

Over a year of legal bickering ended Wednesday afternoon, but it appeared neither brother feuding over a jackpot lottery ticket was ready to move on and sing "Kumbaya" together.

After a two-day trial in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, court, a jury decided two Mechanicsburg-area brothers, Charles Thomas Meehan and Ira Sharp, would split a $1 million lottery ticket straight down the middle.

Sharp sued Meehan, his half-brother, for half of the prize he said they won together at Johnny Joe's bar and grill on May 21, 2013. (See Half brothers fight over million dollar lottery ticket, Lottery Post, July 16, 2014.)

"Justice has been served," a tearful Sharp said after the hearing, adding that when it comes to repairing the fractured relationship between he and his half-brother: "I want to go outside, get a breath of fresh air, relax and then think about all of my options."

Meehan refused to comment immediately after the hearing.

His attorney, Douglas Miller, said after the trial that he hasn't discussed appealing the decision with his client. But he also said he doesn't foresee filing one. 

On whether his client is ready to hug it out with his brother, Miller said: "I would never say never, but it is very difficult for my client. He just wants to get this all over with. [Sharp] filed the lawsuit, and my client was willing to help him out."

Sharp and Meehan had been drinking a few beers and scratching off lottery tickets at Johnny Joe's the late afternoon their fortunes changed. 

When Meehan was ready to fold and stop buying the $20 "Hot Million" tickets he buying from the vending machine, Sharp slid  his brother a $20, which both agree is the case.

But Sharp claims he told Meehan he was giving him the money under one codition: If it hit, the two would divide the prize in half. 

It hit.

And immediately after, the two men went into the bathroom at Johnny Joe's to verify the ticket was a winner. Meehan said the only thing his brother said to him in the bathroom was "your life is going to change." But Meehan maintains that the two never discussed cashing the ticket in together the next day at Johnny Joe's or at his house when they left the bar. 

The jury didn't buy it.

Instead, they made three decisions in Judge Christylee Peck's courtroom that blew up Meehan's account on Wednesday.

The jury found that:

  • A legal contract did exist between the two brothers.
  • Meehan breached the legal contract.
  • Meehan had to pay Sharp $500,000 of the winnings.

"I think the truth prevailed," said R. Mark Thomas, Sharp's attorney, regarding the outcome of a case he called one of the most unusual he has ever handled in 27 years of practicing law. "The truth was his ally. But my stomach was rolling because you never know what a jury is going to do."

As happy as Thomas was, he said he also was sad for the family ties that have been fractured through this feud. Too often, money splits loved ones apart and that like always, Thomas said it's "a travesty."

Miller said the same about the family bond that fell apart after the ticket hit.

And now, the next difficult part will be figuring out the tax implications Sharp and Meehan face, Miller said, because his client already was taxed, and faces additional taxes.

Peck told the attorneys and the two brothers that is something they would have to handle outside of the courtroom.

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