Court rules woman doesn't have to share £100,000 bingo winnings despite 'friends' agreement'

Last updated at 17:39 25 October 2007

Tania Burnett

A young mum who won a six-figure bingo jackpot doesn't have to give friends who were with her on the girls' night out a penny, London's Court of Appeal has ruled.

When Tania Burnett, in her 20s, scooped £101,211 at a Gala Bingo club in Plymouth, it sparked a bitter legal row with close friends, Stacey Wilson, 24, and Abigail Stacey, 26, who claimed the trio had agreed to share any winnings over £10 equally.

Following a marathon court battle - which has cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds as Ms Wilson and Ms Stacey are legally aided - the matter has finally been settled in Ms Burnett's favour.

Upholding an Exeter County Court ruling, Lord Justice May, sitting with Lord Justice Chadwick and Lord Justice Moore-Bick at the Court of Appeal, said a "casual conversation" a week before the girls played on January 20, 2005, could not be legally binding.

It was Miss Burnett's case throughout that, although they had "discussed" sharing their winnings, it was not something she wanted to do and no agreement was in place when they arrived at the bingo hall at around 6.30pm.

During the course of the evening, Miss Burnett, of Middleton Walk, Plymouth, decided to play the "National" game - which links bingo halls up and down the country and has a massive jackpot - and after winning the house prize of £153 went into the nationwide draw.

In a written statement before the court, Miss Burnett said even before she had won the jackpot, she had rowed with Miss Stacey over the possibility of sharing what she described as a "life-changing sum".

Although the friends - who met while working at the Royal Mail Data Entry Centre in Plymouth - went out for a celebratory dinner afterwards at an Indian restaurant, Miss Wilson and Miss Stacey have not spoken to Miss Burnett since.

At the Court of Appeal, Geraint Jones QC, for Miss Wilson and Miss Stacey, argued Judge Michael Neligan, who sat at the County Court, had not given enough reasons as to why he accepted Miss Burnett's side of the story.

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Gala Bingo hall in Plymouth

Mr Jones said the judgement "does not pass muster", and said Miss Wilson and Miss Stacey had effectively been left in the dark as to why their case had been dismissed.

He added that Judge Neligan had wrongly overlooked the evidence of an independent witness who said she had seen all three girls holding hands and crying after Miss Burnett had won, and been told they would be sharing.

But, although Lord Justice May said it was "not entirely clear" how Judge Neligan reached his conclusion, he ruled that the County Court judgement was "perfectly adequate".

"The reality is that Miss Wilson and Miss Stacey's bare bones account of what they say was agreed scarcely stands as an agreement enforceable and binding in law," said Lord Justice May.

The court heard that Miss Wilson and Miss Stacey alleged that Ms Burnett agreed to share the £101,211 even after she had won the main draw, and split the £153 into equal thirds at the curry house where they went afterwards.

But Miss Burnett said she had given her friends £40 each to pay for their dinner.

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