Think twice before buying that Powerball ticket
I'm not much of a gambler, but I'll admit it — I got bit by the Powerball bug today.
I was in the office, minding my own business, when our sales guy Bo started talking about what he would do with $300 million, or whatever is left after the tax vultures get through with the jackpot. I'm usually not susceptible to such talk, but for whatever reason, I soon found myself braving the cold to walk over to the Food Mart across from the office where I purchased three "Quick Pick's" for tonight's drawing.
As I walked back to my desk, clutching my numbers tighter than Charlie Bucket held onto that Golden Ticket, I began to daydream about all of the things I might do. Everybody goes for the obvious: The big house, the exotic cars, a luxury vacation, but I let my mind wander deeper. I'd share some of the ways I might spend my newfound wealth, but I wouldn't want you to think less of me. Suffice to say, among my first purchases would definitely be a pet monkey, Michael Jackson style.
As I write this, my ticket is next to me tucked into the corner of my signed photo of Olivia Newton-John, you know, just for good luck. Which reminds me, if I did win, I would most certainly hire Olivia to come perform at my next birthday party. Frivolous? I suppose, but what's a hundred grand or so when you've got a few hundred million?
Unfortunately, I am a legal writer, and so my whimsical fantasies of all of the cool stuff I would buy with my lotto dough were soon replaced with visions of every person that would crawl out of the woodwork to sue me. I began to imagine every lowlife, derelict and deadbeat that would try to cash in on my good fortune —and those are just the people in my family.
Then there would be the coworkers, former coworkers, neighbors, fake relatives, women claiming I fathered their children, long-lost classmates ... The list would go on.
My mind began to race as I imagined what the attorney's fees would run me. I'll have to hire a team of lawyers and keep them on retainer (sounds sooooo Hollywood, I know) just to fight my battles. Then I'll need a personal assistant to handle all of my mail and other sorts of things that go along with being filthy rich. Of course my personal assistant will eventually sue me for something or another, because I'm paying her $30,000 a year and I'm worth $300 million. So that will end badly (for me, not my lawyers or my former personal assistant).
But at least I will get to do good things with my money. How amazing would it be to be able to find a family in need and pay off their mortgage? Well, it would probably be great, but in my current state of litigious paranoia, I assume within a week of my good deed, every member of the family would injure themselves in the house and file 16 different lawsuits against me.
By the time I pay off the lawyers, the accountants, my former personal assistant, my current personal assistant, the family I bought the house for and my former next door neighbor, who loaned me $7 in 1986 to go in on a case of Topps Baseball Cards (true story) for which I never repaid her (she will of course sue for the seven bucks, plus interest, penalties, pain, suffering, attorney's fees and a good dose of mental anguish) I'll be lucky to have $200 million left.
That might sound like a lot to the average person, but lets face it, $200 million doesn't go as far as it used to, just ask Mike Tyson.
So as much as winning the Powerball sounds like a dream, I hate getting sued, and the thought of having to give big chunks of my new-found wealth away to people in the name of protecting the rest of my new-found wealth seems irritating.
They say the odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 175 million. But the way I see it, when my lucky numbers tumble out of the canister, at least 20 to 30 people are going to get rich. The worst part is, I won't even know most of them, and the ones I do know, I probably won't like very much.
So, as I glance over at Olivia, and wonder which of my three sets of numbers will be called tonight, I realize it's all more trouble then it's worth. I think I'll just stick to my day job, my middle-class paycheck and my modest house in the suburbs.
It may not be sexy, but no one is lining up to sue me, so, in the immortal Carl Spackler ... "I got that goin' for me ... which is nice."
P.S. If you think I'm being paranoid about the whole lawsuit thing, enjoy a few links to stories about some of the crazy lawsuits lottery winners have had to contend with in recent years.
The Daily Beast
The Atlantic Wire
Follow Matt Chandler on twitter @LawJournalMatt