As legal cases go, it wasn't exactly Supreme Court-caliber—more like an episode of Ally McBeal. Was Judy Richardson Yeats the rightful owner of a 20-oz. bottle of Pepsi she bought and left unopened at the Las Vegas health-food store where she worked in March 1998? Or did it belong to Sindy Allen, the night-shift staffer who opened it and discovered that the cap entitled its owner to a $1 million prize (People, June 8, 1998)?
On July 19, a Las Vegas jury deemed Yeats the true pop star. "It's a great relief," says the 46-year-old mother of two, who early in the trial turned down Allen's offer to split the money, believing the beverage battle to be a matter of principle: "That's the way I was raised. If something's not yours, it's not yours." Several former coworkers at the Wild Oats store testified that the luncheon nook where Yeats left the soda was indeed her "drink domain," the spot where the professed Pepsi addict regularly stored a bottle overnight.
Allen, 20, a sophomore at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the eight-member jury that she'd been cleaning up at Wild Oats when she came upon the Pepsi, asked if anyone owned it, then popped the top and poured it out. Only after she refused to share the prize with Yeats did men with briefcases become involved. "The law is in my favor," she insists. "The jury didn't take the time to make the proper decision."
Allen plans an appeal that could keep Yeats, now a homemaker, from cashing in for several months. But if all goes well, Yeats and husband Marshall, 44, a construction worker, will spend their windfall paying off debts and the mortgage on their mobile home, as well as on dental braces for son Kyle, 12. Kyle, however, has other ideas on how to spend the loot. Says Yeats: "He wants toys."
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: The Time of My Life!
- 45 Pages of Oscar!
- The Pistorius Trial: Why Did He Kill Her?
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine