Syndicate rows need not be a lottery

The recent battle between an airline pilot and his ex-wife

over sharesfrom a pub syndicate lottery win is unique on its own particular facts,though

of course not the first case involving a dispute over a lottery win.And the popularity

of the lottery and other forms of gambling syndicatespoints towards more cases involving

disputes over wins in the future.The judgment cries out as a warning to syndicates to

put their intentionsin the event of a big win in writing.Among other things the recent

case has, according to lawyers involved init, highlighted one legal anomaly which puts

wives in a far better positionthan husbands to lay claim to lottery winnings if a

dispute such as thatbetween Lotte and Anthony Abrahams arises.The couple at the centre

of the battle joined a 15-member lotterysyndicate at their local pub, each paying £1 a

week for their share.Their marriage then broke up. The wife, however, continued working

behindthe bar at the pub and continued paying the £2 a week syndicate dues.And she

continued to contribute even after her husband came into the puband, on being asked to

pay his share, suggested she "stick it up yourarse".The husband lived to regret those

words. Shortly afterwards, the syndicatescooped a £3.6m jackpot.The wife then said that

as she had been paying her ex-husband'scontributions, she was entitled to his share of

the winnings as well as herown.Now, in the High Court case of Abrahams v the Trustees

of the Property ofAnthony Abrahams, a Bankrupt, brought by the trustees of the

bankrupthusband, Mr Justice Lindsay has ruled that the wife was right. She wasentitled

to winnings of over £500,000 while her husband and his trusteeswere entitled to nothing

from the jackpot.Solicitor for the wife was Don Freeman, a partner in the

Worthing-basedfirm Lynch Hall.He says: "The lottery win was in May 1997. The problems

arose immediatelyafter the win. It was an unusual case in that it involves a lottery

win."However, the law involved was basically trust law and the decision wasone which

followed long-established trust law principles."The basic problem was that there were

no written rules of the syndicateand the understanding of various syndicate members as

to what the ruleswere were not all the same. No one had really considered it until after

thewin."This case effectively split the syndicate members into three camps. Therewere

the ones called by us to give evidence. Others gave evidence insupport of the trustees

and the rest kept out of matters as far as thelegal proceedings. "The case illustrates

the importance for those such as lottery syndicatesto have proper written rules to avoid

a win resulting in litigation. Howthey go about putting such rules in writing is up to

them."I think if they went to a solicitor the cost would probably be around£50. But

failing that, they should at least attempt to commit something towriting themselves."A

spokesman for barristers chambers 11 Old Square, where some counsel inthe case came

from, highlights another unusual aspect of the matter."The case was decided in

accordance with principles of trust law whichhave been a part of English law since the

18th century."This application of old rules in a very modern context highlights

someanachronistic anomalies," he says."Where facts are less clear than they are here,

the deciding factor insuch a case could end up depending on whether it is the wife or

the husbandwho has paid for the ticket."Where a wife purchases something such as a

lottery ticket in the name ofher husband, the law presumes that she has intended to

retain the benefitof it for herself rather than make a gift of it to her

husband."However, if a husband buys a ticket in his wife's name the position isvery

different."Then the 'presumption of advancement' assumes that he does intend to makea

gift of the property, unless he can prove otherwise."In times when a woman has a

statutory duty to care for her children andfrequently makes equal economic contributions

in marriage this notion iscertainly unrealistic and potentially insulting to women and

injurious tomen."