A Generous Tip or Forfeited Drug Money? An Interesting Legal Case With An Unexpected Turn of Events

An old adage among attorneys in general states:  Widows and orphans make for bad law.  In other words, judges and juries will sometimes bend, twist or torture the law so that seemingly needy plaintiffs obtain relief from the law when other less sympathetic parties might not.  So what might happen with a struggling mother of five children who, has worked as a waitress for almost 20 years to help make ends meet, apparently does the right thing, and ends up in a lawsuit?

In this case, the struggling waitress and mother of five was in need of a miracle to help her overcome her family's financial problems.  The miracle, it turned out, came in the form of a tip.  After serving a woman at the restaurant, the patron left to go to her car leaving a to-go box from another restaurant on the table.  The waitress brought the box out to her customer who told her to keep it.

Apparently, the box felt too heavy to be leftover food so the waitress opened the box and found bundles of money totaling $12,000.  The waitress, despite desperately needing the money, did not feel right keeping it and decided to turn it over to the local police.  The police told her that if no one claimed the money in 90 days, it would be hers.

After the expiration of the 90 days, the waitress went to pick up her "tip" and was told that it was being held as "drug money" and that she would instead only get a $1,000 reward for turning over the money.

The police indicated that the money had a strong odor of marijuana and therefore falls under a law that allows for forfeiture of the money because it was in the proximity of a controlled substance.  However, there were no drugs in the box.  The waitress then hired an atttorney and commenced suit.

This case has yet to be decided but one might think that the widows and orphans rule might come into play in this case.  The probing questions are should the waitress have brought the cash to the police; and should all of the money be returned to her?  What do you think?

Richard P. Hastings is a CT attorney at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state.  A graduate of Fordham Law School, he is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents."  He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)-244-5480 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.