A New Hampshire woman who won a $560 million jackpot on the Powerball lottery made one simple request after her win: anonymity. Since January, she’s been patiently waiting to find out if she can claim her prize under the alias “Jane Doe”. Meanwhile, the courts have been busy deciding whether she should be allowed to “have her cake and eat it too.”
Before cashing in the winning ticket, the woman filed a lawsuit to fight for the right to claim her prize anonymously. The lawsuit was filed under the name “Jane Doe”. Her lawyer, William Shaheen has not disclosed the winner’s name or personal information throughout the proceedings, and all court documents refer to the lawsuit claimant as Jane Doe.
The prize funds were released to Jane Doe in advance of the court’s decision regarding her anonymity. When she collected the jackpot a few weeks ago, it was still unclear whether she would be forced to release her name to the public.
On March 12th, the final decision from Judge Charles S. Temple of the Hillsborough Superior Court Southern District came through in a 15-page document.
Jane Doe is to remain a Jane Doe.
The New Hampshire lottery winner has successfully claimed her winnings ($260 million after taxes) and will not be required to reveal her name. Her attorney, William Shaheen, claimed the prize as a trustee. What she will be required to reveal is her hometown. Judge Temple ruled that releasing the woman’s hometown would not provide enough information for her to be positively identified.
Winner Concerned for Her Wellbeing
While the court case surrounding Jane Doe was specific, it brings up an important dilemma facing the state in all lottery cases similar to this: personal safety and wellbeing versus the general population’s right to be informed.
Jane Doe’s attorney showed significant evidence that jackpot winners like his client have been subject to harassment, and even threats. He cited many cases where jackpot winners were subject to unwanted attention that disrupted their daily lives. With a jackpot this large, the impact of solicitation and harassment was expected to be higher than usual. Judge Temple agreed that should her identity be revealed, Jane Doe would be subject to an unprecedented amount of unwanted attention.
Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission claimed the public had a right to know that the lottery win was “above board”. One of the main reasons lottery corporations publicize the identities of lottery winners (aside from marketing purposes), is to confirm to the public that lottery drawings are impartial and unbiased. Some lottery corporations have come under significant fire for favoritism toward those with “insider” access to lottery claims, such as this example from 2003. Publication of winners keeps lottery retailers and corporations accountable to the public. As a result, many lottery corporations include the stipulation that a winner must be named, keeping the corporation open to public scrutiny.
Public Interest Over Personal Safety?
While agreeing with Jane Doe’s concerns for her personal well-being, Judge Temple also had reservations about New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s claim that public interest was a concern. The Commission argued the public has a right to know the name of the winner to ensure there are, in fact, “real winners”.
However, further investigation revealed that lottery winners in New Hampshire could claim their jackpot under the name of a trustee. Had Jane Doe not signed her ticket before claiming her prize, she would have been able to claim the ticket under the name of a trustee, thereby protecting her identity. Therefore, there was already a work-around to publicly claiming the winnings. As a result, the Commission’s argument that “real winners” must be announced was weakened, and Judge Temple sided with Jane Doe. He also mentioned that there was no evidence of corruption or wrong-doing on the part of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, which meant there was no need to publish Jane Doe’s real name to legitimize the win.
Moving Forward After the Resolution
The lottery prize money was awarded to Jane Doe before the final verdict was made. Following that release, the lawsuit wrapped up and Jane Doe was allowed to remain as Jane Doe with her prize money intact.
Thus far, Jane Doe has generously donated significant sums of money to various charities and organizations aimed at alleviating hunger and improving the lives of young girls. While her real name hasn’t been publicized, the acceptance of money by these charities has been front and centre in the media. Several representatives of organizations are shown in this photo from the NY Times accepting Jane Doe’s donations.
Immediately following the ruling, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission suggested that they may ask for the lawsuit to be dismissed, citing New Hampshire’s “Right To Know” law. However, the Commission released a statement on May 19th that indicated they will not be appealing the decision.
For the time being, Jane Doe will be left in peace with her winnings.
Keep an eye on the blog for updates on this story as it develops.
[Note that this post is merely illustrating that the desire to remain anonymous as a lottery winner is a live issue. The laws and regulations governing lotteries in New Hampshire are different from those in Canada, and thus, the Court’s decision in this case is not precedential or binding on Canadian Courts.]
Author: Danielle Mohr
Danielle is a professional copywriter and editor who provides services to Jackpot Lawyer on a contract basis. She has a broad range of experience in business marketing and is highly motivated to help businesses generate leads, increase sales, and promote growth.
Danielle has worked on websites, corporate blogs, and manuals for professionals, trades, government-funded organizations, and international corporations. Her work is driven by a strong passion for continued learning and she enjoys the challenge that comes with forging connections in the digital realm.
Danielle is the owner of Fine Point Writing & Editing based in Edmonton, Alberta.