Powerball Lottery Sued by D.C. Man Who Thought He Won $340M

Posted on: February 18, 2024, 03:59h. 

Last updated on: February 18, 2024, 03:59h.

A Washington D.C. man is suing Powerball and the D.C. Lottery for $340 million, plus interest, after he claims he was wrongly denied a winning jackpot of the same amount.

John Cheeks, Powerball, DC Lottery, lawsuit, $340 million
Washington D.C. resident John Cheeks thought he had struck it rich until it turned out someone had posted the wrong Powerball numbers on the lottery’s website. (Image: NBC Washington)

On January 6, 2023, when the jackpot hit those dizzying heights, John Cheeks bought a Powerball ticket using the birth dates of family members as his choice of numbers, according to a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

Cheeks didn’t watch the January 7 live draw on TV – because, let’s face it, who does? But when he checked the DC Lottery’s website the next day, it displayed his winning numbers.

Despite believing he had just become a multimillionaire, the Washingtonian took the whole thing in his stride.

“I got a little excited, but I didn’t shout, I didn’t scream,” Cheeks told NBC 4 this Friday. “I just politely called a friend. I took a picture as he recommended, and that was it. I went to sleep.”

Human Error

However, unknown to Cheeks, the numbers on the website were different from those that were actually drawn during the live Powerball broadcast. And when he went to get the ticket verified at a licensed retailer, he was told it was no good.

He got a similar response at the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming prize center, where he was told to “throw it in the trash can,” according to weeks.

Cheeks was eventually informed that there had been a “human error.” For unknown reasons, someone at Taoti Enterprises, the D.C.-based digital advertising agency in charge of DC Lottery’s website, posted the wrong numbers. They stayed there for three days.

While Cheeks is seeking the full $340 million, it’s difficult to see how that will stick. If you bet on the Niners to win the Super Bowl, for example, and you just happened to read somewhere that they beat the Chiefs last Sunday — despite hundreds of millions of witnesses to the contrary — you can’t simply get paid out. That’s not how it works.

But since this was the lottery’s own website, Cheeks’ attorney, Richard Evans, believes it may have a liability to pay something, if not the full whack.

“Even if a mistake was made, the question becomes: What do you do about that?” he asked NBC 4.

Legal Precedent

And there is a precedent. In November 2023, Iowa Lottery officials blamed a “human reporting error” for posting the incorrect numbers in a situation where much less money was at stake. Players who cashed their tickets before the error was noticed were paid out. The prizes ranged from $4 to $200.

So, if $200, why not $340 million?

Cheeks might be trying to claim a prize that may not exist, but someone in Florida this week failed to claim a prize that did very much exist — although not anymore.

At midnight on Sunday, February 11, the deadline to claim a winning jackpot ticket worth $36 million passed without a claimant coming forward. It’s likely the holder of the ticket, purchased at a Publix grocery store in Jacksonville, was oblivious to the situation.

It’s probably best they never find out.

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