It seemed like something out of a movie—in fact, just like something out of 1994’s It Could Happen to You, in which Nicolas Cage, without a tip for waitress Bridget Fonda, promised to split his winnings if he got lucky in the lottery. As in the film, Tonda Dickerson didn’t think much of it at first when Edward Seward Jr., a regular at the Waffle House in Grand Bay, Ala., gave her a Florida lottery ticket March 7. But later that day she learned she had a winner—worth $10 million. “My first reaction was not to tell anybody,” says Dickerson, 28, “because someone could knock you over the head and steal the ticket.”
But Dickerson ended up with a headache anyway. Four coworkers who’d also received lottery tickets from Seward claimed, with his backing, that winnings were meant to be pooled. “It was always stated that if we hit, we split,” said shift manager Matthew Adams, 27, to a judge and jury when he and waitresses Sandra Deno, 45, Angela Tisdale, 23, and Jackie Fairley, 21, sued Dickerson for a share. Their testimony last month was compelling enough, and Dickerson was ordered to split the winnings.
“They had the upper hand because there was four of them and just one of me,” says Dickerson, who insists she never agreed to pool any potential winnings from the tickets Seward occasionally handed out. She’ll still receive approximately $2 million even if she doesn’t decide to file an appeal, but now Seward says he was promised a new pickup truck if someone won a jackpot with one of his tickets. Says Dicker-son with a sigh: “He never told me anything about a pickup truck.”