Winning the lottery is a pipe dream for most of us – an impossibility that we only joke about and only read about in the papers. But just because you win an unimaginable amount of money doesn’t mean your life is going to get better. For some, it destroys their lives almost completely.

Take the case of Tonda Dickerson, a Florida waitress who was given a lottery ticket as a tip from a man named Edward Seward in 1999. The next week, she won $10 million, and her life turned upside down.

She chose to take $375,000 over 30 years rather than the entire amount at one go. Soon after, she was facing legal battles with colleagues, friends, the IRS, and even the man who gave her the tip.


Her colleagues claimed that they had agreed beforehand that if any of them won the lottery, they would share the winnings. However, Tonda denied this, and rejected a deal offering her $3 million.

Her lawyer described the co-workers as ‘rats coming out of the woodwork’. Soon after, a jury took 45 minutes to decide against Dickerson, and said she would have to split the winnings. However, in 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed this decision after an appeal.


Then, in 2002, a judge threw out a suit brought against Dickerson by Edward Seward, who said there was an agreement to buy him a new truck if the ticket was a winner.

But Tonda’s troubles were far from being over.


That same week, Tonda’s ex-husband Stacy Martin, whom she had divorced in 1997, was shot after trying to kidnap her.

It started with Martin abducting Tonda, and telling her he was going to kill her. He held her hostage in her own truck. However, she managed to reach into her bag and take out her gun. She shot him in the chest, after which she herself took him to the hospital.


And finally there’s the IRS, who spent a decade fighting her in court about exactly how much she owed in taxes on the money. They were demanding $1 million in gift tax, on top of income taxes. However, the court ruled in Tonda’s favour.


By the end, she gave most of the winnings away to her family to set up a business. Not much else is known about her life nowadays, apart from the fact that she now works as a poker dealer in a casino. What a crazy life, though!