A waitress was tipped a lottery ticket and won $10,000,000. She was then sued by everyone!
A waitress was tipped a lottery ticket and won $10,000,000. She was then sued by her colleagues for their share. Then she was sued by the man who tipped her the ticket. Then she was kidnapped by her ex husband and shot him in the chest. Then she went to court against the IRS.
Edward Seward walked into a Grand Bay Waffle House nearly 20 years ago, sat down and ate breakfast. That was the day he changed the life of the waitress serving him.
As Seward was paying he gave a lottery ticket as a tip, something he often did. Tonda Dickerson, a then divorced woman in her late 20s, was the recipient on that Sunday, March 7, 1999.
A week later, Dickerson’s life was changed forever.
Dickerson won $10 million in the Florida Lottery. Court documents filed in Mobile County show that she elected to take $375,000 over 30 years rather than the lump sum, a move generally regarded as wise.
Soon however she quickly found herself embroiled in multiple legal battles with friends, colleagues, the Internal Revenue Service, and even the man whom tipped the ticket.
The biggest problem she faced in claiming her money was her fellow colleagues.
In court filings from the time, those colleagues claimed that any winnings from lottery tickets given by customers as tips would be shared equally. But since it was a tip, Dickerson believed it belonged to her.
During a Mobile Circuit Court case in April 1999, a jury took 45 minutes to decide against Dickerson, who denied that she had agreed to split any winnings. Her lawyer described the co-workers as “rats coming out of the woodwork.”
The four co-workers had also received lottery tickets as tips and testified that they and Dickerson had a plan to share the winnings. A couple who regularly dined at the Waffle House in Grand Bay testified that Dickerson told them of the deal. Dickerson, who had turned down a settlement offer that would have given her $3 million of the Florida jackpot, left court without comment, according to past Press-Register reporting.
Dickerson appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which reversed the Circuit Court on Feb. 18, 2000, ruling that any agreement with the Waffle House waitresses was unenforceable under Alabama law because it ”was founded on gambling consideration.” And of course, that type of gambling is illegal here.
In February 2002, two years after the ticket was claimed, a Mobile County Circuit Judge threw out a suit brought against Dickerso by Seward, who claimed there also was an agreement to buy him a new truck if the ticket was a winner.
The same week that Seward was denied by a judge, Dickerson’s ex-husband, whom she divorced back in 1997, two years before the lottery win, was shot after trying to kidnap her.
Stacy Martin, now in his late 40s, lunged at Dickerson while she was driving in her truck in Jackson County, Mississippi. “All the time they were driving, he told her that he was going to kill her,” said the Sheriff at the time. “They drove on Highway 90 into Jackson County, where he took her to the boat launch at Bayou Heron, which is an isolated area.”
During the trip to the boat launch, he said, Dickerson’s cellphone rang, but Martin refused to let her answer it, threatening to kill her if she did. When the pair arrived at the boat launch, Dickerson pleaded with Martin o let her go, according to reports from the time. During her leadings, her phone rang a second time. “She asked him to let her answer it, saying that if she didn’t answer it, they would start looking for her,” said the Sheriff.
When Martin agreed to let her answer it, Dickerson reached in her purse and pulled out a .22-caliber handgun. Martin lunged toward her, Byrd said. She shot him, hitting him in the right side of the chest.
After the shooting, Martin attacked Dickerson and took the gun away from her, telling her he was going to kill her and himself, Byrd said. Dickerson managed to convince Martin to seek treatment for his wound, and they left the boat launch for the hospital. Police were called once the pai made it to the hospital.
The story didn’t end there,For more than a decade the IRS argued with Dickerson about exactly how much she was due them.
In March 2012, Attorneys with the Birmingham firm of Sirote & Permutt successfully argued before U.S. Tax Court that the IRS was wrong to demand about $1 million in gift tax – on top of income taxes – after Dickerson gave most of her winnings away to her family through a business they set up.
The court ruled that Dickerson’s winning Florida lottery ticket was worth only a fraction of its face value at the time it was taxable because of competing claims for the money filed by her fellow Waffle House waitresses.
Little is known about Dickerson today other than she currently works as a poker dealer at a casino.