On Wednesday, the five walked into a Sydney Supreme Court for an injunction hearing before Justice Frank Edwards who must now decide whether there was an enforceable contract among the five to split the winnings.
The $100,000 prize was offered by the MacDonald Auto Group as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. The names of those who purchased a car in 2016 were entered into the draw with five selected as finalists. One of the five would receive the grand prize while the others would be awarded gift certificates for car detailing.
According to affidavits before the court, the five finalists verbally agreed that whoever won, the prize would be split equally, ensuring each finalist would walk out the door with $20,000.
The final winner was Darin Seymour of Glace Bay who wasn’t present for the draw but was represented by his wife, Kim.
In her affidavit, Kim Seymour said the suggestion to split the prize was made by another finalist, Priscilla Gould, of Eskasoni.
“I did not respond to it and I immediately started to feel anxious and that anxiety grew each time she made the comment,” stated Seymour.
She said when Gould directed the question at her about splitting the prize, she said “I guess so” because she didn’t want to be confrontational and disagree with her.
“I was intimidated by Ms. Gould who was boisterous and loud. It was an extremely awkward social situation and I was extremely anxious,” said Seymour.
But affidavits filed by two other finalists, Matthew Standing, of North Sydney, and Rita MacMullin, of Sydney Mines, suggest no one put pressure on Seymour to accept the proposition of splitting the prize.
“I observed Mrs. Seymour to look happy that she would be leaving with $20,000. I do not believe there was any pressure put on Mrs. Seymour or any other finalists to agree to the agreement,” stated Standing.
Rita MacMullin stated that all five met in a meeting room at the dealership and verbally agreed to split the prize and Seymour stated her “word was good.”
Further, MacMullin said it was Seymour who collected the contact information of the other four after the draw, telling them she would be in contact shortly to arrange for the delivery of their prize share.
Kim Seymour denies that, stating the contact information was given to her by an employee at the dealership.
Prior to the draw, some of the contestants signed a waiver acknowledging they were representing the individual who actually purchased the vehicle. They were also told the dealership would only be producing one cheque to one winner.
In his affidavit, Darin Seymour explained that he purchased the car with his own financing since he and his wife have separate bank accounts.
“I was aware that Kim had to sign off with the dealership as my representative. Kim and I never had any discussion regarding her having final decision making authority over the winnings and I would never have agreed to this,” he said.
He noted that his wife suffers from anxiety and that she avoids conflict wherever possible. He said she is unable to oppose a strong personality or a group of strangers without great turmoil.
“I won the $100,000 in a draw. I would not under any circumstances agree to give $80,000 of it away to four strangers,” stated Seymour.
Lawyer Candee McCarthy, who represents the Seymours, said in her address to the court Wednesday that something said in a moment of excitement or passion is not enforceable by a court.
She said there was plenty of opportunity at the dealership to put the agreement in writing, which was not done.
She said Darin Seymour had a right to be consulted about the agreement prior to the draw. Two of the other finalists did contact the individuals they were representing prior to making a final agreement to split the prize.
“This was her husband’s winnings and she did not speak with him prior to the draw.”
Christine Murray, who represents the other four finalists, said there was a mutual promise by Kim Seymour and she voluntarily agreed to the proposition.
Murray said Seymour could have called her husband after signing the wavier but did not do so. She also could have declined to participate in the plan to split, noted Murray.
Edwards has already issued an interim order that protects the winnings from being spent for the time being.
He adjourned Wednesday without naming a day for a final ruling on the injunction. He did request further legal briefs from McCarthy and Murray.
A final decision could come as early as next week, given that Edwards ended the hearing Wednesday, saying he didn’t like to let his cases drag on for too long.
JUST THE FACTS
• Issue – Is there an enforceable agreement between the parties to split a $100,000 prize?
• Players – These four individual contend there was a legal agreement to split. Karen Doucette, Eskasoni; Priscilla Gould, Eskasoni; Rita MacMullin, Sydney Mines and Matthew Standing, North Sydney, who are represented by lawyer Christine Murray. Kim Seymour and her husband, Darin, of Glace Bay, do not agree there is a binding agreement. They are represented by Candee McCarthy.
• Justice Frank Edwards heard arguments Wednesday on whether to grant an injunction to curtail any spending of the money until a final determination by the court after a trial. He has adjourned decision.