Lotto winners sue state

December 11, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

A Hagerstown couple who won $5.7 million is suing the Maryland State Lottery Agency for withholding $32,140 of their winnings to pay child support that the state of Michigan alleges is owed.

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Harold and Shurl Bussard, of 13021 Cathedral Ave., sought a temporary restraining order and injunction against the state lottery, according to documents filed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court.

That injunction asks that the lottery commission be barred from giving the money to the State of Michigan, where Bussard's ex-wife, Nancy Bussard, lives.

Harold Bussard, 62, and Nancy Bussard were divorced in 1975. They have four children.

Harold and Shurl Bussard said the child support payments were made years ago and that the allegations that money is owed stem from a computer error.


Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III on Monday granted the request for the restraining order, to be in effect until a hearing on a permanent injunction can be held.

In agreeing to the restraining order, Boone wrote in his order that Harold and Shurl Bussard would be irreparably harmed if the request were not granted because the money would be beyond Washington County Court's jurisdiction if it were transferred to Michigan.

Court papers say Harold and Shurl Bussard won the lottery on Jan. 5, 1995.

They have been receiving $187,050 annually after $81,200 in federal taxes and $21,750 in state taxes are deducted. The installments are to continue for 16 more years.

The Bussards had been receiving the checks since November 1995.

Shurl Bussard said in a telephone interview Wednesday that her husband bought the winning ticket at County Market and realized it was a winner a few days after the drawing.

"I cried and cried," said Shurl Bussard after her husband told her they won.

She said the winnings came at a time when they were experiencing financial difficulties.

The couple was notified in a Nov. 5 letter from Maryland Assistant Attorney General Laura F. Davies Tilley in Baltimore that the lottery was withholding $32,140 as ordered by the State of Michigan, 38th Judicial Circuit, Monroe County.

In response, the Bussards' Hagerstown attorney, G.E. "Chip" Snyder Jr., requested that Tilley not release the money they were withholding to the State of Michigan.

Snyder wrote in a Nov. 18 letter that Harold Bussard had paid the child support to the Department of Social Services of Maryland in an arrangement made in the mid-1970s.

His payments to the Maryland agency replaced the arrangements with Michigan, he said.

Snyder also said the lottery winnings are the joint property of Harold and Shurl Bussard and therefore can't be used to pay a debt levied against only one of them.

Snyder said he has documentation to support the Bussards' claim that the child support had been paid.

He said he did not know how the State of Michigan found out about the couple's lottery winnings.

Of the $32,140 in question, $12,071 would go to the State of Michigan and $19,490 would be given to Nancy Bussard if it cannot be proved that the child support was paid, said Snyder.

Officials from the State of Michigan, 38th Judicial Court did not return phone calls.

Snyder said that if his client were in arrears some $32,140, Michigan likely would have taken legal action against him.

"If he truly did not pay the money, I think he would have been thrown in the can," he said.

Nancy Bussard, who lives in Michigan, said she doesn't remember whether her ex-husband made all of his monthly payments of approximately $300.

"It was 20 years ago," she said.

She said she has a good relationship with her ex-husband.

"We don't hate each other. We just couldn't live together," she said.

She said she did not notify the State of Michigan about Harold and Shurl's winnings.

"I'm not pushing for this," she said.

Nancy Bussard said she told Harold Bussard that during a recent phone conversation.

"I told him that if I didn't do anything about it then, why would I push for it now?" she said.

She said, however, such a financial windfall would be welcome.

"Thirty-two thousand dollars could help out anybody," she said.

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