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Contract breach: friend of game show winner says he deserves cut

Anyone in New Jersey who has dreamt about winning the lottery has probably mentioned to a family member, friend or co-worker: "If I win, I'll share it with you."

Whether a person has really thought it through when they make conditional promises to pay off a neighbor's credit card debt or an acquaintance's mortgage, we are all somewhat lucky because we won't be asked to do things because we won't actually win the lottery. However, after one man's friend recently won $50,000 on the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," and declined to share it with him, he took her to court for breach of contract.

The man says he answered questions on her behalf during a phone quiz, in order to help her get on the show in the first place. Furthermore, he says they had an agreement that if he helped her get on the show, she would share any winnings.

A judge has now ordered the woman to pay one-third of her winnings to the man, but she has filed an appeal.

Interestingly, the two people involved in this lawsuit are attorneys themselves.

While this case is somewhat unusual, various types of contract breach disputes often become personal to the parties involved. Anytime someone enters into a contract, it is because he or she has something at stake that is worth protecting. Thus, when someone--especially a friend--violates the contract, one might feel personally insulted.

In fact, in this case, the man who is seeking a payout has conceded that he will probably never receive what he believes is his share, but that at this point it is a question of ethics.

Nonetheless, it is often preferable to resolve civil disputes in arbitration or mediation, because this is much faster and less costly than litigation. However, sometimes it is necessary to go into litigation to reach the desired outcome, and it may even be necessary to go through the appeals process, as the woman in this case has decided.

In any legal dispute, it is always important to work with someone who is committed to protecting your best interests.

Source: Business Insurance, "OFF BEAT: With friends like this, who really wants to be on 'Millionaire'?" Sept. 18, 2012

  • Our firm handles disputes in arbitration and mediation settings, as well as in civil litigation and appeals. To learn more, visit our New Jersey Civil Litigation page.

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