In Cook County, there are now four pending lawsuits filed by employees of a suburban Chicago Heights bakery who claim they were deprived of chance to buy into a pool of lottery tickets that won the grand prize of $118 million.
Chris Tzinis is just the latest worker at the Pita Pan bakery suing his former co-workers who claimed he was part of a large office pool since last December. Tzinis said he was last asked to contribute money to the pool on March 24. However, he still considered himself part of the pool.
After the group won the grand prize on May 4, Tzinas was informed he would not receive a share of the profits, reported the Chicago Tribune.
Last month, four other workers filed a total of three lawsuits claiming similar stories.
"This group had been running a pool since 2011," said attorney Michael LaMonica of Fisher & LaMonica, the law firm representing two of the five claimants, reported ABC News. "Normally, they collected money for the pool on Mondays and Thursdays."
LaMonica claimed his clients -- Jose Franco, 56, and Marco Medina, 39 -- contributed to the pool for the drawing in May, but did not receive any of the profits. He said that on May 1, the group won $9, and the winnings were reinvested for another drawing on May 4. That ticket won the grand prize, but Franco and Medina claim they were excluded from the winnings.
They said the pool had an agreement that they would split the money evenly. The plaintiffs argue they were never asked to contribute to the winning ticket, reported ABC.
However, the 12 defendants contest that claim.
Michael Haugh, the attorney for the defendants, said he disagrees with the plaintiffs' "characterization of the facts." ABC quoted Haugh as saying, "Anybody who puts in their money can play."
The lottery commission refuses to pay out any of the winnings until all lawsuits are settled.
LaMonica believes the law is on the side of his clients. He said pools are viewed as joint ventures.
"It's one-for-all and all-for-one," he said. "Everybody gets an equal share. There's no way of knowing which dollar won." He cited cases in which courts in New Jersey and Ohio were presented with similar disputes and gave equal shares to the participants.
On June 11, the judge presiding over the case is expected to consolidate the lawsuits. Haugh then hopes the judge will release some of the earnings to the 12 original winners.
"The question is did they each win 1/12 as we believe or potentially 1/17 if the five claimaints are right, which I don't think they are," Haugh said. "There's no question my people are winners."
Haugh said his clients have been forced to stop working at Pita Pan due to the stress at the media attention.
"My people are normal working people. They really have wanted privacy and confidentiality," he said. "They all intended to work there for some period of time. When the news reports hit, it became difficult to continue working there."
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