Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Twist On The Expression, "Litigation Lottery".

Imagine a lottery--without a winner. Unappealing? It was enough for one entrant to sue.

Ben Waldrep had a house with an ocean-view in Manhattan Beach, California. As an alternative to simply selling, he launched an contest which required a $195 entry fee and an essay on "Why I Want to Live in Manhattan Beach, Calif." The grand prize: Waldrep's home. (B. Pool, "Essay Flap's Plot Takes Strange Turn", Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2005.)

Nearly 2000 people entered the contest. When Waldrep didn't move out of his house and the supposed winner didn't claim the prize, one unhappy essayist filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Last week, a Los Angeles jury decided Waldrep had committed fraud and ordered him to return the entry fees, plus interest, to the essayists. On top of these "compensatory" damages, the jury awarded "punitive damages" a few days ago. However, according to the Times, the jurors agreed that the contestants should additionally split between them the approximately $1 million. "But in a mix-up, jurors inadvertently awarded the 1,812 essayists $1 million each." (Id.) This computed to a $1.8-billion punitive damage award.

The jurors tried to return to the courtroom to rectify it, but "learned they were too late: They had been dismissed." (Id.) In any event, it appears that the apparent mistake will be brought to the Court's attention through counsel.