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Gambling Siblings

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Lottery Ticket

Theresa Sokaitis and Rose Bakaysa were always close. Three times a week, the sisters visited Foxwoods Casino where Rose hit the slot machines, while Terry played Caribbean poker. The duo also routinely purchased lottery tickets together, picking the same numbers with the understanding that all winnings would be split 50-50.

In January 1995 Terry hit a $165,000 jackpot and shared all but $15,000 with Rose. After splitting the jackpot, Terry wanted to formalize their 50-50 agreement, and on April 12, 1995, the sisters signed a contract stating all future winnings would be split equally. In 2004, the sisters, now in their 80s, got into a heated argument over a $250 unpaid loan Rose made to Terry. The dispute ended in a bitter split. The sisters did not speak for a year.

Rose, however, still played the lottery using the same numbers, but with a new partner—her brother Joe. On June 18, 2005, the numbers paid off—winning $500,000. When Terry found out, she called Rose demanding half. When Rose told Terry that she would get nothing, Terry reminded her “I have a contract.” Rose told Terry that she had torn up the contract and refused to share any winnings with Terry. Terry sued Rose for breach of contract. At trial, Rose claimed the contract was rescinded and testified that when they argued over the $250 loan the year before, Terry told her, “I don’t want to be your partner anymore,” at which point Rose replied, “OK”—a statement Terry adamantly denied.

The Decision: The judge explained that both parties had to agree to rescind a contract. With conflicting evidence as to whether both agreed to rescind, the judge relied on their conduct in her finding, concluding: “The behavioral changes that occurred support Rose’s position that this was a heated argument that … clearly fractured a sibling bond and terminated the partnership.”

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