One very lucky woman won the $559.7 million Powerball jackpot in February. We'll call her Jane Doe.
There's no doubt that Jane Doe is over the moon with her windfall. All she wants is to remain anonymous.
Is that so much to ask?
Apparently so, which is why she is locked in a legal battle to keep her identity a secret. Don't worry, Ms. Doe should still receive her winnings, which have been placed in a secure location until such times as the court decides whether or not New Hampshire's Right to Know law will or won't be applied.
Sure, it's hard to feel sorry for the lucky soul that hits a half billion-dollar jackpot. They're rich without having to do much. Like most hopefuls, Ms. Doe likely stood in line, decided which numbers to pick, or even easier, opted for the Quick Pick, and went on her merry way.
In spite of this, we can't help but feel just a little sorry for her. The New Hampshire woman hasn't been able to cash in her ticket just yet because of her ongoing legal dispute.
What's it all about?
Well, Jane Doe is fighting to remain anonymous when she does collect her dough. The New Hampshire Lottery Commission insists winners sign their name on the back of the winning ticket before receiving the winnings.
Jane Doe signed her ticket without realizing that there is an option to sign the winning ticket in the name of a chosen private trust so as to remain anonymous. Sadly for her, the powers that be at the lottery commission say it's too late to change her signature. Jane Doe signed her ticket using her real name, and should it be altered in any way whatsoever, it's rendered invalid and she can say farewell to her cash prize.
The lottery's argument is that it must publish the information on the ticket for the sake of public transparency.
Reports suggest that Jane Doe doesn't want to release her identity as she wants to be able to walk into stores or along the street without being referred to as the winner of a massive jackpot.
In other words, Jane is worried that if her name gets out to her friends and family, her windfall may bring her nothing but unhappiness.
We think Jane's done her homework. After all, research shows that winning the lottery doesn't necessarily make you happier in the long term.
There are so many horror stories out there of other winners who have suffered after cashing in on their luck. Many of those horrors could have been avoided if the winner had been able to remain anonymous.
Jane Doe's battle has therefore gone to the Supreme Court. Her legal team argues that she shouldn't be forced to reveal her identity. They purport that she is now part of a small minority that has historically been victimized by underhanded people-with sometimes life-threatening outcomes.
Interestingly, only a few states in the US legally allow jackpot winners to retain anonymity. In Canada, there are different lottery rules for each province, but they're pretty similar.
For example, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation publishes the city or town of residence of all those who win over $1,000. If the winner hits on $10,000 or more, their picture is also published. If a Canadian won a Powerball jackpot, it's likely they'd be subject to the rules of the state where they bought their ticket.
One New York-based attorney known as "The Lottery Lawyer" says he sympathizes with winners who want to remain anonymous. Jason Kurland has represented many lottery winners over the years. According to Kurland, the winners are usually terrified and overwhelmed, and the last thing they want is everyone knocking down their door.
While we all continue to buy our tickets and hope for a jackpot win, Jane Doe's case goes to show that winning comes with a whole different set of challenges and worries.
While we wait for Jane Doe's case to be resolved, it will be interesting to note that her quest for privacy means that New Hampshire may recognize a caveat within the state's Right to Know law. If Jane wins, it could well mean that there will be less transparency in government moving forward.
That's a high price. But, surely Jane is entitled to enjoy her half a billion in peace and anonymity?
If you want to know exactly what to do after you win big, consult our What to Do When You Win Powerball article.
New Hampshire justice Charles Temple has ruled that the recent Powerball winner – known only to the media as Jane Doe – can retain her anonymity when claiming her $559.7 million prize.
He wrote that he had “no doubts whatsoever that should Ms. Doe’s identity be revealed, she will be subject to an alarming amount of harassment, solicitation, and other unwanted communications.”
As such, despite signing the back of her winning ticket with her name, Jane Doe will be able to claim her prize with only her hometown, Merrimack, NH, being revealed to the public.