It is not unusual in daily business situations to have an oral (parol) contract or collateral agreement. But the perils of this situation are widely reported especially in terms of proving the existence and exact conditions of such agreements. It was therefore rather refreshing to see the courts supporting a “happy end” (for at least one party) in such a situation. This case also provides an interesting insight into the day-to-day practicalities of the rules of interpretation and the burden of proof for implied contracts and terms.

In the case of Kucukkoylu v Ozcan (30 June 2014 [2014] EWHC 1972 (QB)) the trial court was required to settle a dispute between the claimant (C) and the defendant (D) regarding their entitlement to lottery winnings. D was employed by C. He had had a dream that he was holding a large bundle of cash with C standing in front of him. D was a strong believer in the power of dreams and interpreted it to mean that he and C would win the lottery. On January 30, 2012 a ticket was bought for the EuroMillions lottery which won the raffle prize of £1 million, which C claimed. It was D’s case that he and C had agreed, either explicitly or impliedly, to jointly purchase the ticket and that he was entitled to one half of the proceeds of the win in accordance with their agreement. It was C’s case that there had been no discussion or agreement as to sharing the ticket.

Judgment was entered by the court accordingly. For D to succeed he would effectively have to prove that a contract existed with C for the purchase of a lottery ticket jointly and that the terms of the contract gave rise either expressly or impliedly to an equal share of the beneficial interest, in the form of the prize money. On the balance of probability, D had had a dream which involved him and C and a large sum of money. D had then pestered C into playing the lottery with him. D suggested and C agreed that they would play the game “50/50” or “half and half” or words to that effect. They both contributed equally to the purchase price of the ticket. D went to the shop to play the lottery and gave C the tickets. D retained the receipt and the play slips. C later discovered that he had won and D challenged him about the ticket. C became angry and threatening and swore at D. Subsequently, through intermediaries, C attempted to persuade D to drop his claim. The effect of those conversations was that C and D had entered into a contract to jointly play the lottery on an equal basis. Either it was a term of the contract that any winnings should be shared equally or, alternatively, such a term should be implied. That represented the obvious but unexpressed intention of the parties and was also necessary to give business efficacy to the contract. The whole point of playing the lottery jointly was to hopefully share the winnings jointly. The phrase “50/50” or “half and half” was clearly intended to convey an equal right to the beneficial interest in any winnings. Accordingly, the prize money should be shared equally between C and D.

The lesson to be learnt is: get it in writing and signed!