'Accidental' ticket is uncharted legal terrain
Published 07/04/2011 | 05:00
The €500,000 row over the accidentally printed Lotto ticket last week will bring Lotto fever into uncharted legal terrain.
In the UK, a cashier who made a mistake would void the ticket by scanning the bar code. In Ireland, the process to void a ticket is not automatic and is more convoluted and time consuming, often leading to phone calls to National Lottery headquarters to undo mistakes.
As a result, many retailers have their own internal systems to deal with accidental prints.
They may hold on to them and sell them on to the next customer. They might insist staff absorb the loss for any mistake by forcing them to buy the ticket or otherwise compensate the store.
Andrea O'Reilly's lawyers have indicated they will seek to rely on the common practice at Tesco in Navan for employees who hit the wrong button to buy the ticket. Tesco, however, is not commenting on its practices as it has been notified it may face legal proceedings.
If this dispute does go to court, one of the key questions will be: who owns the misprint and at what point does ownership pass to a staff member under such a common practice, if it did exist?
Experts say the legal issue is one of contract law.
And Ms O'Reilly's legal team may argue that the misfit ticket is a chattel -- a form of personal property -- that could have been appropriated when, as she claims, she took ownership of the ticket by doodling a sad smiley face.