Winners And Losers

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The thrill of the punt is not for everyone. It can be a tough game. To the victor goes the spoils, but to the rest only heartache.

Litigation, like any gamble, needs a strong heart and deep pockets, and should always be proceeded by a careful cost/benefit calculation. Because not even the house, with all the odds stacked firmly in its favour, will always come up trumps.

It’s precisely that ever-present risk and uncertainty of what might happen in the courtroom that sees the most commercial bun-fights settle short of trial. The last-minute legal settlement “on the steps of the court” is the lawyers’ equivalent of the good old-fashioned SportsBet Cash Out.

But not everybody goes that way. For every nine litigants who contract a bad case of the Hail Marys as they reach the courthouse steps, there’s at least one lionhearted litigant who is simply unwilling to die wondering. They are life’s gamblers, who figure if you’re going to win big, you’ve got to be prepared to lose.

I think it’s fair to say Mr Brendan King is one such individual. Last week Mr King lost his long-running court campaign to share in a $40 million Lotto win dating back to May 2016. But you couldn’t say he didn’t give it one red-hot darned good crack.

Mr King, a Sydney factory worker, had been a member of a Lotto syndicate with 14 of his work colleagues, taking a regular splurge on the Big One, hoping for his ticket out of the factory. So when the organiser of the syndicate one day announced he and his colleagues had struck it rich with a $40 million payday, naturally Mr King was popping champagne corks and planning his next holiday. That is, until he learned he wasn’t actually in the whack. On closer inspection, it was revealed that the members of his Lotto syndicate had decided to set up a second, separate syndicate, which specifically excluded him. No doubt it sounded like a seriously bad joke when he was told all his colleagues, but not he, were members of the syndicate that bought the winning ticket.

Like a true gambler, Mr King rolled the dice in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, launching a claim for his $2.7 million share of the winnings. The stakes were high for everyone concerned, and no doubt efforts were made to reach a mutually acceptable position. But whether they were or not, no settlement was ever reached, and the case eventually went to trial. Unfortunately for Mr King, the Supreme Court found against him and, to add insult to his injury, ordered him to pay the defendants’ legal costs. Ever the gambler, he valiantly forged on, appealing the decision to the New South Wales Court of Appeal.

Again he came up short, with the appeal court this time making the further order that he pay the defendants’ costs of the appeal. It was revealed last week that Mr King now owes somewhere in vicinity of $1,000,000 in legal costs to his former colleagues.

Like I said, it can be a very tough game.

Brendan Nyst

Director, Dispute Resolution & Litigation Lawyer

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