Big Lotto win turns sour, family caught up in house dispute

Does the number of people who bought tickets make an overall difference to your odds? Photo: File
Photo: File
A once "close-knit" Auckland family has been torn apart following a big Lotto win 13 years ago – and a subsequent court battle over a home that was purchased with the help of the payout.

"Many people dream of a Lotto win," says a recently released Court of Appeal judgment.

"Even a modest win might lift a family's circumstances and relieve financial pressure. In this case, a Lotto win seemed, at first, to do just that. It allowed a family to put down a deposit on a large house in South Auckland in which they could all live together."

But, as the court found, the win and the purchase of the home turned sour as Auckland couple Ajnesh Chinappa and his wife, Vilashni, came up against Ajnesh's sister Angeline Narain, and their mother, Kaniamma Winter, in the courts.

The dispute stems back to January 2009, when the $250,000 winning ticket was bought in Auckland.

"There is a dispute as to whether Angeline or her mother purchased the Lotto ticket," noted the Court of Appeal.

"What is agreed is that on 24 January 2009, Mrs Winter and her daughter-in-law, Vilashni, went grocery shopping...

"They checked the Lotto ticket at Panmure Stationery and Lotto Shop and found it had won a prize of $250,000. Mrs Winter, with Vilashni's assistance, completed the Lotto prize claim form on the spot."

At the time, Winter filled out the form with her details but Chinappa's bank account number was put down. The sum was later transferred into a bank account set up for the family, although $30,000 was left in Chinappa's personal account.

That year Chinappa and her husband Ajnesh used the $30,000 towards a deposit on a six-bedroom house in Auckland's Papatoetoe where they lived with Winter and Angeline. (Winter is also the mother of Ajnesh).

The family lived in relative peace in the home until 2012, when Angeline Narain's partner moved in and relationships turned sour. Narain and Winter ended up being trespassed from the house.

The Court of Appeal judgement confirmed a "division" arose among the family members in 2012.

Narain and Winter claimed Narain had 50 per cent equitable interest in the property and that the $30,000 was intended as a "gift".

In 2021, the High Court found that the winning Lotto ticket belonged to Angeline Narain, she had a 50 per cent share of the house and the $30,000 hadn't been intended as a gift.

The Chinappas rejected that Narain was the winner of the Lotto ticket and appealed the decision.

In the recent Court of Appeal judgement, Justice Rachel Dunningham ruled the Chinappas' appeal was allowed in part.

Dunningham found the Chinappas held a 20 per cent share of the house for Narain and concluded that Angeline Narain should be compensated.

The Court of Appeal said it was "satisfied Angeline has established her entitlement to the Lotto sum on the balance of probabilities".

"We find that the appellants hold, on constructive trust for the first respondent, a 20 per cent share of the full market value of the property.

"In addition, we direct the appellants to compensate the first respondent for her loss of occupation of the property by paying her occupation rental, calculated at 20 per cent of the market rental for the property for the period since she was forced out on 23 July 2012.

"If the parties are unable to agree on this sum, it is to be fixed by the High Court. We note the prospect of increased or indemnity costs being awarded if parties act unreasonably in resolving this final issue."

The court of appeal said the family was once "close knit".

The judge also revoked the possibility of Winter pursuing a life interest in the house.

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