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CHICAGO | Attorneys for current or former employees of a Chicago Heights bakery who believe they deserve a share of a $118 million Mega Millions lottery prize are preparing themselves for depositions.

Those attorneys are scheduled to appear Thursday before Cook County Judge Kathleen Pantle for a status hearing.

Thursday's hearing is to ensure that all attorneys have filed the necessary paperwork. There are 12 employees of Pita Pan Bakery, 401 E. Joe Orr Road, who have the winning ticket from the May 4 drawing and seven other workers who think they were wrongly excluded from the winning group.

“We're finally going to get the litigation moving forward,” said Michael Haugh, an attorney for the dozen co-workers who have possession of the winning ticket.

Erron Fisher, an attorney for two employees who filed the initial lawsuit, said the information from these legal briefs will be needed when depositions are taken early next year. Fisher said the depositions would eliminate many inconsistencies he says exist in the stories that have been told by participants in the case.

After depositions are complete, Pantle could schedule a trial date.

“We're working our way through the legal process, it takes time,” Fisher said, adding that his own clients are frustrated, both by the delays and by the fact they were excluded from the lottery prize to begin with.

“They're still wondering why they were excluded after the win,” Fisher said. “It seems money really does strange things to people.”

Haugh said his clients were feeling anxious over the delays, primarily because most of them are not working anymore, having quit their jobs at the bakery because of all the public attention they received.

Haugh said the lottery prize breaks down to $7.2 million for each of his clients, if all of the other workers' lawsuits are rejected. It could shrink down to $4.8 million each if all of them are found by the court to have valid claims.

Various lawsuits were merged this summer into the case now pending before Pantle, which involves the winning ticket from a Mega Millions drawing purchased at a Glenwood gas station by employees of the Pita Pan Bakery who routinely pooled their money into a pot to purchase lottery tickets.

A dozen employees tried claiming the prize, but Illinois Lottery officials have said they will not pay anything out until the courts resolve who has a right to the money.

In the case of Fisher's two clients, they say some lottery prize money they won previously was rolled over into the ticket purchase for the May 4 drawing, while other people filing lawsuits have their own stories about how they had purchased tickets as part of the group in the past and should be included in this pot even if they didn't contribute to it.

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Senior Copy Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.