Wal-Mart has always been a target for many people who a monster corporation that strangles local stores and offers low-paying jobs with little benefits to locals. A story, however, in Jackson, Missouri has left many gasping. Wal-Mart has successfully sued Debbie Shank, a brain damaged former employee, for insurance money that she received before an award in a car accident case. Shank is not only struggling to survive but she lost her son recently in Iraq.
Shank, 52, was left with severe brain damage after a traffic accident in May 2000. She lost much of her short-term memory and left her in a wheelchair and living in a nursing home. She constantly asks about her son and when told that he is dead, she experiences the death as if for the first time due to her loss of memory — breaking down in tears.
Shank’s problems began when she started work for Wal-Mart to stock shelves. She joined the health plan, which paid out $470,000 for her total disability. However, two years after the accident, she and her husband won a $1 million judgment against the trucking company responsible for her injuries. Once fees and costs were paid, this resulted in just $417,000 being placed in a trust account for Debbie’s care. When Wal-Mart found out about it, they sued to get the money under a provision that said that the company could seek to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects any money in a lawsuit.
The Shanks didn’t notice in the fine print of Wal-Mart’s health plan policy that the company has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit.
Wal-Mart won and one week later, the Shanks son was killed in Iraq.
Many have wondered why the $90 billion business could not make a human judgment in this case, particularly given the fact that the money was not used in some scam or high living. Indeed, the Shanks had to divorce to get needed Medicaid money to continue to support Debbie. Jim, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer and has to work two jobs to pay the bills.
Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley, who called Debbie Shank’s case “unbelievably sad,” replied in a statement: “Wal-Mart’s plan is bound by very specific rules. … We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank’s case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary, but this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan.”
Really? This is the first time that I heard of a company that MUST sue. One would hope that the brain-damaged-memory-impaired-son-killed-financially-struggling-woman-with-the-cancer-victim-husband case might not arise that often for Wal-Mart.
Notably, this store just lost an abusive trademark lawsuit designed that seemed designed to crush an Internet critic, click here.
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