Jury Gives L.A. Lotto Loser $3.4 Million for Bad Spin : ‘I Deserved It,’ Nurse Declares

From Times Wire Services

A Superior Court jury today awarded $3.4 million to a Los Angeles nurse, agreeing with her claim that the state lottery owed her a $3-million prize from her turn at the Big Spin more than three years ago.

After deliberating for one day, the panel found that Doris Barnett was entitled to the prize money, plus $400,000 in damages.

“It feels so wonderful,” an ecstatic Barnett, 54, said outside the courtroom when asked how it felt to be a millionaire.

She said she had prayed every night to win the case.

“I’m going to take care of my mother and take care of my children,” she said. “I want to send my kids to school to get them some of the opportunities I didn’t have.”

Barnett said she believed that she was entitled to the $3-million prize.


‘Tried to Take It Back’

“They gave it to me, and then they tried to take it back. I felt I deserved it,” she said.

Barnett’s two daughters, Vickie Barnett and Jane Jackson, hugged their mother and cried outside the courtroom. Vickie Barnett began screaming with excitement when the jury verdict was announced.

The case stemmed from Barnett’s Dec. 30, 1985, spin of the big prize wheel. Although the wheel’s ball initially fell into the $3-million slot, it bounced out and landed in the $10,000 spot after show host Geoff Edwards had announced her as a $3-million winner.

The lottery awarded Barnett $10,000, claiming that the ball had not remained in the higher prize slot for the required five seconds.

But Barnett’s attorney, Lawrence Sperber, told the jury in closing arguments last week that the five-second rule was usually broken when the show’s emcee announced the prize before the time had elapsed.

Fair Treatment Asked

“If they’re not going to wait five seconds, then they can’t come into this courtroom today and say to you that she had to wait five seconds,” Sperber said. “Why should she be treated any differently?”

He said his client was asking to be treated fairly, not with sympathy or any special consideration.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Norman Peek, who represented the lottery, said the Lottery Commission will probably appeal the verdict.

“We think the rules were adhered to,” he said.

Peek said the jury decided that Barnett was a $3-million winner because Edwards announced her as one, even though the ball had not remained in the $3-million slot for the required five seconds.

Such a situation has never occurred before, he said, adding that he did not know if the verdict would cause some changes in Big Spin game procedures.

The five-woman, seven-man jury deliberated just over one day before unanimously finding in Barnett’s favor. Some of the panelists, however, disagreed on how much money should be awarded to Barnett.

Juror Roy Love said the panel believed that the state had acted negligently in not enforcing the five-second rule for all Big Spin contestants. He said the jurors believed that Barnett had been treated unfairly because of the negligent enforcement.

“We didn’t think it was intentional,” he said. “The ball wasn’t in the slot for five seconds, but we didn’t see the rule being applied” to other contestants.