Stranger than fiction

By Legal Eagle

I love a vivid judgment. It makes life as a lawyer interesting. The recent decision of J W Quinn J of the Ontario Superior Court, Miller v Carley, is one of those cases. Here are the first three paragraphs:

After a busy day conducting illegal drug transactions, the plaintiff, the defendant and a mutual friend stopped at a corner store where the defendant purchased some “scratch” lottery tickets. One of the tickets proved to be a $5-million winner.

The parties dispute ownership of the winning ticket. If the ticket were a child and the parties vying for custody, I would find them both unfit and bring in Family and Children’s Services.

The case is awash in untruths and curiosities. It is a study in good fortune squandered and generosity abused.

One can’t help reading on after an introduction like that! It’s the kind of scenario you dream up for a hypothetical exam question. There are a couple of other fantastic little gems. At [108] the judge comments:

Despite the excitement of the night, the [defendant’s] mother, true to her British heritage (she was born in England and came to Canada in 1981), retired to another room at 7:00 p.m. to watch the television show “Coronation Street”. (There was a limit to the disruption that she would allow $5-million to make in her life).

At [197], the judge notes:

It was annoying to learn from the defendant that, as of the date of the trial, less than half of the $5-million remains, with nothing to show for what has been spent.

You may be wondering what happened in the end? Well, the conclusion (at [210] – [215]) states as follows:

During this trial, truth was only an occasional visitor.

Mr. Mahoney is probably correct in his submission that, in their relationship, the defendant “was the leader” and the plaintiff “was the follower,” but not, I think, to the extent that the plaintiff would be muzzled into silence about his alleged $10 contribution to the defendant and his espoused entitlement to a share of the winning ticket.

The plaintiff has attempted to build his case on a series of telephone conversations with others. However, his conduct and admissions throughout, particularly at the OLGC offices and Scotiabank, are consistent with only one conclusion: his claim is a brazen fabrication.

The admission by the plaintiff that he did not tell anyone that he had contributed to the cost of the lottery tickets, while having had ample opportunity to do so, his express denial to the lottery officials that he was claiming a share in the ticket and his silence at Scotiabank, are insurmountable evidentiary obstacles for the plaintiff.

In the end, the plaintiff has failed to satisfy the onus he bears of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that he gave $10 to, and pooled his money with, the defendant as alleged.

The plaintiff acknowledged in his testimony that he believed he and Delisle are “entitled to something” because they were friends of the defendant and present when the ticket was purchased and scratched. Despite the pleadings and the disavowal of that position by his counsel, I think it is the real reason the plaintiff feels he should share in the $5-million.

(Hat tip – Lionel Smith, Obligations Discussion Group)


  1. Posted April 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like a Coronation Street plotline. I’m sure the writers could get months of mileage out of it.

  2. Miss Chelsea
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    I always love a good old fashioned caning in a judgment, thank you LE.

  3. Posted April 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Stranger than Fiction, please do a piece on this!

    Wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall in that marital conversation…

  4. Posted April 22, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Especially interesting in light of the fact that all reviews in the Economist are anonymous, on the grounds that it facilitates honesty. That said, reviewers must conform to a strict house style, and the Economist is known for its scrupulous fact-checking.

    At some point all the issues surrounding anonymity, pseudonymity, the internet, reviewing, the fact that artistic circles are often very small — will mesh together and there will be an almighty blow-up.

  5. Posted April 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    “with nothing to show for what has been spent.”

    Hmmm, in light of the opening para, I’d say it had all gone up in smoke…. or perhaps $2.5mill is not to be sniffed at.

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