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Retail Giant Kicks Handicapped Woman in Teeth

walmart-evil.jpgHere’s a heartwarming story for you: Debbie Shank, a former employee for Wal-Mart, was involved in a work-related accident eight years ago that left her brain damaged, in a wheel chair, and with a loss of a short term memory. Last year, her son died in the war in Iraq; however, because of Shank’s short-term memory problems, every time she’s told her son is dead, she hears it for the first time.

But, wait for the good news: Thanks to Wal-Mart’s stupendous healthcare plan, they paid $470,000 in her medical bills. In addition, Shank sued the trucking company responsible for her accident and won an additional $1 million, which came to just around $417,000 after attorneys fees.

But guess what? Wal-Mart has a fine print clause that says if an employee sues and recovers damages, Wal-Mart can recoup money received. So, what did Wal-Mart do? You betcha! They sued a brain-damaged, handicapped woman with a dead son for $400,000!

And they won!

Good for Wal-Mart! You gotta stick to your principles — no exceptions! Not even for a woman whose husband (who just underwent treatment for prostate cancer himself) had to divorce her just so she could get on Medicare!

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.”

He then went on: “What the hell does a cripple retard need with $400,000 anyway? More straws?”

| Comments (17)


Comments

CNN Anderson Cooper 360 is doing a story tonight at 10 p.m. EST about the Shank case. You can learn more and take action by going to:
http://action.walmartwatch.com/debbieshank.

Wal-Mart is just following a common policy, I want to point out that Wal-Mart funds their own health care plan so this is just another case of them not wanting to put more money into covering the health care of their workers.

We should all hold Wal-Mart accountable.

This is a prime example of a company not thinking a damn thing through. It will cost them more in bad press than that silly little $400,000. I naturally understand that they need to sue so not to get taken to the cleaners later but if they were smart, they would return the money as a good will gesture. Hell, they most likely spend more on TV commercials than that. Way to shoot yourself in the damn foot.

So did anyone else notice that $1,000,000 turned into $417,000 after attorneys' fees? Is that normal? I know contingency lawyers (if that's what she had) take a good chunk, but close to 60%?

Wal-Mart made 11 BILLION dollars last year and this is how they treat a disabled employee? Sick!

Would love to hear Michael Moore's take on this.

First of all, it was not a work related accident. She was driving around at yard sales with her sister when she was rammed by the semi.

Secondly, they did in fact "double dip". The Shanks went to Wal-Mart for coverage when they should have gone to GEM and a lawyer.

Third, like most companies, there is that clause. It is called a subrogation.

Fourth, her lawyer cashed in 58.3% of her settlement. That is $583,000 off a million. Why is no one questioning his ethics?

Fifth, the lawyer (Graham) has admitted he did not go for more because he didn't think Wal-Mart would come back for their money.

I could continue.....

Please read everything instead of following a one-sided mainstream media article.

I do not think Walmart needs to apologize for what they did here. She and her atty were aware of the lien before the settlement/judgement. She doesn't get a double recovery. Sure it would be nice for Walmart to basically donate $400,000.00 to this woman, but they shouldn't be guilted in to doing it.

I'm in agreement with anonymous. Wal-Mart sucks, but you have to go deeper than just the surface with things like this. Don't be so fast to jump and slap a hand, you may just slap the wrong one. FFS Quizlaw, at least keep it balanced.

The law is an ass.

I'm having difficulty seeing the problem here beyond the attorney's fees themselves, the Anonymous poster is completely correct in how he analyzed this situation.

What Walmart did was nothing more than a subrogated claim wherein they recoup monies paid out by them through the plaintiff. Indeed, while no fault lies with Walmart or any of their insureds, they pay-out nevertheless on the condition that if money is, in fact, recovered, they reserve the right to recover the money paid out. In the end, the only insurance company who should be in any way out-of-pocket is that of the truck: it's a matter of liability and justice, it's only fair that the party at fault, or their insurer (as the case may be) be held liable.

This is an extremely common practice in insurance litigation, from car accidents to no-fault workers compensation schemes.

Don't take Anderson Cooper and the rest of the media whores at their word: they are those who breach their own ethics by lacking understanding of issues but report these stories anyway.

Issues of insurance litigation are not always straightforward, but I expected more from Quizlaw.

She obviously had a poor lawyer if he failed to realize that Wal-Mart had this clause in place. Add in the fact that he took well over half of her settlement and I'm not sure why this article isn't about him instead of Wal-Mart.
Everyone's just on such a Wal-Mart = Evil kick that I don't think they care to hear the whole story.

Why couldn't Wal Mart have sued GM and the driver directly themselves to recoup the losses? I don't know insurance law, but I thought in this case she was suing for lost wages and more intangible damages (like not having short-term memory) in addition to any out-of-pocket costs she has ito incure for her care. If they want their money back, shouldn't Wal Mart sue the people responsible for the accident to recover their own costs? And shouldn't her lawyer have approached them about this?

And finally, since Wal Mart creates their own insurance, can't they control in what instances they will sue their own people for reimbursement and in what instances they'll sue the people responsible for causing them?

I reconsidered my earlier comments about the lawyer taking exorbitant amounts in fees. While $417,000 sounds is a lot of money, it is approximately 40% of the final settlement. In essence, this is not an uncommon contingency rate. However, 58% is extremely high, and I'm confused as to which number to believe.

However, her lawyer should be worried about professional liability. If what Anonymous said was true, and the lawyer did not think that WalMart would come after her for the money, he is in serious trouble. I actually believe this part of the story, because according to the video, WalMart successfully sued Ms. Shank for the amount. If they gave the impression to her lawyer that they were not going to pursue the matter, then they would have been estopped from claiming, and they would not have won the suit. It is the responsibility of every lawyer, in the course of litigation, to correspond with interested parties. Her lawyer knew, or ought to have known that WalMart was subrogated in the matter. In any event, he admitted that he did not negotiate for a proper amount (on the assumption that WalMart would be disinterested in the settlement/award.)

What has Walmart done other than being sucessful? People go on an don about how they are driving out "mom and pop" stores. When was the last time anyone bought anyting from a "mom and pop"? Why not the same hatred agaist Lowes, Sears, Home Depot, any major supermarket chain?

Here is something that will be very hard for Walmart haters to whine about since it involves a boon for Arabs.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/117835

Lollygagger -- In subrogation cases like these Walmart could have either joined in the woman's lawsuit, but also taken a cut of the attorney fees, or they could have let her attorney do the lawsuit and give notice of their lien. They apparently chose the later. The people she sued paid the damages to her for her to pay back to Walmart. That defendant shouldn't pay twice. Lets say I wrecked your bicycle and you need a new one. You sue me for a new bike. Your friend says he will buy you a bike now and when you win your suit against me you can then pay him back. I don't pay for two bikes. I pay for your bike, but you have to turn around and pay your friend back.

this comment is kind of in response to Darcy's comment. She said that all Wal-Mart has done is is be succesful and why not be mad at Sears, Lowe's etc and "who goes to mom & pop stores anyway?" Well, first of all, on my drive home tonight in quest of a chicken sandwich I almost stopped at McDonald's, but then I thought, you know, there is a little place by my house that sells them, I really need to give them the money more than McDonalds, then toningt i realized I am going to have to get some gardening supplies tomorrow so I'm going to my local hardware store, where I wll pay about $5.00 more for all my stuff, but I'll feel better shopping there. So if I can do it-so can anyone and we need to start! That would be a 1st step in helping the economy.
Why is Walmart worse than Sears, Lowe's etc? Because Wal-Mart is taking EVERYONE'S business INCLUDING Sear's, Lowe's etc. Wal-Mart negotiates an economy-killing deal with companies like Folger's, Libby's, Gerber, etc who are making litterally pennies in profit for their products which means less wages for their emoployees which means more people have to shop at Wal-Mart to be able to afford to live and so the cycle goes. It drives all businesses and citizens into the dirt, not just the mom & pop stores.

First of all I would like to say that I work for Wal-Mart and to my knowledge none of the employees such as myself have ever been informed of this clause in our insurance. What's the point of paying the monthly premiums if they can come back on you and basically make you pay them back for what you are paying them to do? When you are involved in an accident the guilty party should have to compensate you for you medical expenses, pain and suffering, and in this case future care because she was disabled due to the accident. This woman needs the money to live out the rest of her life to the best of her ability and doesn't need some money hungry retail giant or their insurance company taking it from her. And yes I have read where Wal-Mart has changed their mind and decided not to take the money, but believe me, it is not because they have a heart and feel compassion for this woman. Instead they realized how much bad press thy were getting for their actions and decided it would look better on them if they said they had reconsidered and due to Mrs. Shanks circumstances they felt they should not recuperate their loses. They don't give a rat's $#* about her or her family. All Wal-Mart and the insurance company care about is the almighty dollar and it doesn't matter who they have to beat down to get it. If Wal-Mart really cared about this woman or any of it's other employees, they would have donated money to a fund to help Mrs. Shank with her future care. If anything like this has been done then it wasn't Wal-Mart that did it but Mrs. Shanks fellow associates. You see the company doesn't take the lead by doing something for their employees in need. Instead a group of common associates take it upon themselves to try to help the associate who is in need the best they can. We do this by taking up donations, having dinners, or anything else we can think of that will help raise money for that associate. Yes the company does have an associate in need fund but the request goes through so many doors to get where it needs to be that the associates can do the job more quickly and effectively than the company. So trust me when I say Wal-Mart is an uncaring, money hungry tyrant who will stop at nothing to make or take a buck.