Wal-Mart Sues Brain-Damaged Former Employee for $470,000!

@anniepa (27245)
United States
March 26, 2008 9:40pm CST
If you've ever wondered why so many people hate Wal-Mart, this story might go a long way in explaining it. http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/03/18/wal-mart-prevails-in-case-to-recover-health-costs/ Deborah Shank, a 52 year old former Wal-Mart employee was in an automobile accident eight years ago that left her with permanent brain damage and confined to a nursing home, needing constant 24/7 care. She was awarded $700,000 in a lawsuit stemming from the accident, $417,000 of which remained after legal fees - money her family thought could be used to pay for her care. Wal-Mart originally sued for nearly $470,000 in medical expenses after the May 2000 accident, charging that the Shanks had violated the terms of the health plan by not reimbursing it. After losing in federal court and again on appeal, the Shanks’ last legal hope was a bid to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, however, announced it wouldn’t take up the case, bringing the matter to a close. Wal-Mart may have some low prices, although I don't think they're always the lowest as they used to claim, but I don't care, I will not longer shop there! Their profit for last year was well into the billions, their CEO earns more in ONE HOUR than a typical employee earns in a year, most of their merchandise is from China - all of these are reasons I haven't been a big fan for some time now but this is the last straw for me. It won't be a great loss in my case because out closest Wal-Mart is over 20 miles away so I don't shop there on a regular basis but I intend to spread the word to those I know who do. By the way, Mrs. Shank's 18 year old son was killed in Iraq shortly after the family lost the lawsuit. Annie
7 people like this
17 responses
@jenni7202 (1598)
• United States
27 Mar 08
That's absolutly horrible! I do believe Wal-Mart would do that though. I personally work for Wal-Mart, but not because I really want to, but because it's the only job around here that will pay me more than any other! I've been there for about a year, and trust me, we've had our issues with one another. My mother has worked for the company for 4 years now, and during her first year she hurt herself while on the job. She ended up having 2 slip disks in her spine, and Wal-Mart claimed that she didn't do it there, she must have done it somewhere else. They didn't pay for her injuries, and she ended up having to pay it out of her own pocket and the insurance company that my father's job has. Also, when she was to go for pain management shots at the hospital, they gave her a doctor's note stating that she should not work the following day because of chances of paralization and passing out and what not. Wal-Mart gave her what is called a D-Day for calling in that day, even though she had a doctor's note. A D-Day, or Decision Day, is a paid day off, where you have to write a letter stating why you value your job, and if you fail to write one, you are fired. Of course, they accepted her letter, and she still has her job, but lost all respect for the company. The only reason we are both still there is because we need the money, and they pay higher than most companies in our area. We also do a lot of shopping there as well, because they are the closest thing to us, and we don't like to waste gas money on going any further. It really upsets me that they are so horrible to their employees. There was also another woman that I used to work with, that slipped on green beans that were spilled on the floor by another employee on one of the days that Wal-Mart supplies us with lunch. She badly injured her back and leg, and was taken to the hospital. Since she was clocked out for her lunch break, Wal-Mart wouldn't pay for the hospital bills, so she ended up leaving and going to work for a bank.
• Indonesia
27 Mar 08
Be careful, they can read your post here you know.
2 people like this
@anniepa (27245)
• United States
27 Mar 08
I've heard similar stories from Wal-Mart employees and former employees from my area too. I think this story of this poor woman should be circulated as widely as possible and maybe people will see beyond the few cents they save at the cash register and start doing their shopping elsewhere. Gosh, I'm sure not saying that in the hopes of putting you or your mother out of a job, Hon, I do understand, you have to go where the money is and in this economy there aren't many decent jobs around. Maybe if this story receives enough attention the powers that be at Wal-Mart will reverse their decision and decide to help this former employee and her family instead of destroying their lives totally. Annie Annie
@Kowgirl (3491)
• United States
27 Mar 08
This sounds like it was due to the insurance that Wal-Mart offers their employees and not Wal-Mart itself. My daughter worked for them for a while and was hurt while on the job. She not only had all her medical bills and therapy paid by them she even received her weekly checks just as if she was working. I just have to say that the person who was injured while clocked out can sue Wal-Mart because she was inside the store when the accident happened and it was their fault for not cleaning up the mess before the accident. When you are inside any store even if you work for them but are not on the clock you are then considered a customer. Call Legal Aide and see if there is anything that can still be done about it.
2 people like this
• United States
27 Mar 08
I agree that it is sad what happened to this woman, but everyone who has health insurance is subject to this rule. If you are in an accident and your health insurance pays the bills initially, they are entitled to be reimbursed for the medical bills that they paid that were another party's responsibility. If it were any other company, we probably wouldn't have heard a thing about it because it is the status quo. I did, however, notice that she had to pay her lawyers almost $300,000, nearly half of the amount she was awarded.
@anniepa (27245)
• United States
27 Mar 08
It may be the "status quo" but it sure isn't a fair rule at all and I'm glad this has been publicized. Just another case of corporate greed. The settlement she received was to be in a trust fund for her future care so I would think she'd have won her case but I'm not surprised the Supreme Court, such as they are now, wouldn't hear her case. Am I to take your last sentence to mean you're criticizing the lawyers for taking their cut? Annie
1 person likes this
• United States
27 Mar 08
Of course lawyers get their cut. It just seems like an awful lot to me. And no one seems concerned about that. Only about the place that makes it possible for my family to stay afloat. If your insurance pays your medical bills for an accident that is someone else's responsibility to pay, then they are legally entitled to the money that they paid in the first place AS A COURTESY. That is all I'm saying. If you are in an accident that is someone else's responsibility to pay (like worker's comp, car accident), your health insurance doesn't have to pay the bills at all. But the people I've known who were in accidents, their insurance would pay initially so that they could get medical care while waiting for a settlement, but you have to sign papers that if you sue, they will be paid back. Otherwise it is you getting double payout for the same bills. The same thing would have happened had she had Medicaid. You sign a paper saying if you sue for an accident you have to repay Medicaid for the accident-related bills. Most people just don't pay attention to the contracts that they sign. I agree it is sad for this woman, but apparently she just got too low of a payout to make it worth paying the lawyers. They probably told the family they could get much more and then couldn't.
1 person likes this
@anniepa (27245)
• United States
27 Mar 08
"Of course lawyers get their cut. It just seems like an awful lot to me. And no one seems concerned about that. Only about the place that makes it possible for my family to stay afloat." We all know lawyers' fees are too high so that's nothing new. They got slightly above 40%, which is about average for that kind of suit. I always say everyone loves to attack lawyers until they need one and in this family's case they sure did need one. I'll sink before I'll support a company like Wal-Mart from now on. The truth is, there are places where I can get things for cheaper than Wal-Mart and I don't have to drive as far. Everything there is made in China anyway. "If your insurance pays your medical bills for an accident that is someone else's responsibility to pay, then they are legally entitled to the money that they paid in the first place AS A COURTESY." PLEASE don't tell me an insurance company does anything out of the goodness of their heart or as a courtesy. "That is all I'm saying. If you are in an accident that is someone else's responsibility to pay (like worker's comp, car accident), your health insurance doesn't have to pay the bills at all. But the people I've known who were in accidents, their insurance would pay initially so that they could get medical care while waiting for a settlement, but you have to sign papers that if you sue, they will be paid back. Otherwise it is you getting double payout for the same bills." She did not get double payout for the same bills! She requires constant care and will for the rest of her life, that's what the settlement money was for. If Wal-Mart felt the need to sue anyone it should have been the trucking company to pay the original medical bills she had. "The same thing would have happened had she had Medicaid. You sign a paper saying if you sue for an accident you have to repay Medicaid for the accident-related bills. Most people just don't pay attention to the contracts that they sign." I'm not sure if her family signed any such papers or not. I'm glad to see this story has gotten more airplay today following the original report of it last evening. Wal-Mart should be exposed for the greedy guts they are. What hypocrites they are with some of the commercials they've had bragging about how they take care of their associates! Annie
@bellaofchaos (11549)
• United States
27 Mar 08
This is a sad story and you know WalMart could have afforded to eat the cost here and show some good faith to the community instead of suing the poor woman. I think that Wal-Mart needs a wake up call. Grrrr. If only I had a target close to where I live I would start using that more.
2 people like this
@elmiko (6640)
• United States
27 Mar 08
This is sad. I would certainly hope this story was told inaccurate but Its probably true. I heard alot of people said they will quit shopping there because of this. Walmart likes to milk every cent they can.
1 person likes this
@anaknitatay (1335)
• Philippines
27 Mar 08
go ahead and do this, as Gandhi said we as human beings have a duty not only to refrain from doing evil but also to object and combat immoral actions as well. Not doing something in order to fight evil is sometimes the same as doing it yourself. You guys over there should boycott them so they will know the folly of their actions.
2 people like this
@mari61960 (4895)
• United States
27 Mar 08
I have always hated the way walmart treats it's employees. This doesn't suprise me at all. I don't think anything is going to change them. People will continue to shop there because let's face it the prices are good. In this day lack of money is a big issue. People will save at all costs. I'm sure there must be a way to make them change...however it is beyond me what it would take. Very sad story, thanks for posting it. Blessed Be, Mari
@kellys3ps (3726)
• United States
27 Mar 08
That is horrible! It is awful that businesses no longer have hearts - they only think about the bottom line.
2 people like this
@agfarm (930)
• United States
1 Apr 08
This is yet another example of why our country desperately needs Health-Care reform. The Insurance companies could care less about the Individual's needs. People are being treated like Live-Stock at Auction. ( Just another Number ) This is an egregiously terrible situation in Our Country , which needs to be Immediately addressed.
1 person likes this
@agfarm (930)
• United States
1 Apr 08
I too come accross as Harsh. I am not picking on Walmart in quite the FAshion that people might think , although I can see how my own words could be seen as such.My Candor gets me into a lot of trouble ( I'm still working on that , I get too involved , I need to step Back ) What Infuriates me mostly is a Health-Care system which does not work. And I do not know who is at Fault. ( That's the worst part !!!! )Where do you turn , when you see an injustice ??? My Ego gets the Best of Me on these issues. All I can say is....I am excited to see two Candidates ( Mr. Obama , and Mrs. Clinton ) Clearly addressing this issue in their Campaigns. No matter how you dice it....it's a step in the right direction. My words do sound judgemental at times , and that is wrong. I am my own worst Critic. I judge myself ( if you can believe it ) for talking to guys on mylot on issues of relationships and pretty much any other topic , Because in my weirdness....It just simply feels wrong....even though I am more comfortable with Men then I am with women ( Except for you Annie , you're Cool !!! )I have always Felt more at ease talking to Men then Women , don't ask me why...I am just weird that way.Just like today....I have already talked to two guys in my Friends column and I felt terrible for it , But I just feel more comfortable with Men. Yes I am Racked with guilt at all times.....But I'm working on that too. anyway it was great talking to you Annie , Oh....By the way....My story that I wrote a while ago ( Brain Fart ) about having a girlfriend and having extra Marital ( well ...you know ) Never happened. I was just going crazy ( Insanity Fart???? ) for a while. My Husband is my Rock , and he always Brings me and my Colorful Imagination back to Earth. He understands me to a T He is my foundation , and of course he knows everything I do on Mylot I show him everything. No Secrets and a lot of Communication....that's the Best recipe for a Long-Lasting Marriage. God Bless you Annie.
@Ayannali (63)
• United States
29 Mar 08
This is one of many many reasons i don't shop at Walmart and will not shop at Walmart EVER again
1 person likes this
@anniepa (27245)
• United States
29 Mar 08
Same here! Annie
@ltmoon (1008)
• United States
27 Mar 08
While this is all heart-breaking story the facts remain that most employer insurance policies have clauses requiring reimbursement. None of the tear-jerking rhetoric you have added to this story changes the facts.
1 person likes this
@anniepa (27245)
• United States
27 Mar 08
See my post following the previous response. Annie
• United States
30 Mar 08
My son was an employee of WalMart and was abused by his supervisor and other employees. He is disabled. I told him to come home and I would deal with it. WalMart store manager refuses to do anything about it. I have seriously thought about suing them but I doubt that it would do any good. They are horrible. I will never shop there again. I will drive 100 miles to shop someplace else if I have to rather than deal with those horrible people.
1 person likes this
@biwasaki (1745)
• United States
30 Mar 08
I had never heard of this story until I saw your post. I think it is absolutely appalling how big corporations can run all over us little people and then get away with it! Hopefully this story gets circulated and people learn about what kind of a place WalMart really is!
@CatsandDogs (13964)
• United States
27 Mar 08
Shame on YOU! - This woman needed this money to help her survive the trama of the car accident! Shame on you Walmart!
That is truely horrible! How lame and cold! I do believe in karma and what goes around will come around. Walmart will not last for very long at the way they're running the business. We'll be around long enough to watch it fall and get a good laugh at their fall from grace.
1 person likes this
@clrumfelt (5425)
• United States
27 Mar 08
This is terrible for the woman. I bet if Sam Walton was still around none of this would have happened. Just another case of a company going to he!! in a handbasket after the original founder passes on. Same sort of thing happened to the Hershey Company. After Mr. Hershey passed on the CEO's sent their factories to Mexico. I think these businessmen would be turning over in their graves if they knew what was going on now.
• United States
27 Mar 08
I've heard of this. It is worrying and terrible. Companies are putting clauses in their health plans so that damages awarded to a victim can be reclaimed by the company. It's a disgrace if you ask me, but, this is what you get if you allow big business to run the government!
1 person likes this
@subha12 (18453)
• India
27 Mar 08
its just so bad of walmart. how walmart can sue her family? her brain is damaged and she needs constant treatment. from where she would reimburses the money? there will be no way other than dying and even though they can't give back it.
1 person likes this
@lishiwei (1553)
• China
27 Mar 08
So many people hate Wal-mark?That's a surprise to me.I never think of it.I like it very much.Ithink the goods in it is very well so I always like to go there for shopping.I don't know how they thought.
1 person likes this
@emeraldisle (13145)
• United States
27 Mar 08
I've read several articles and discussions on this. Wal-Mart is not the villain here. The family decided to use the health plan to pay for the expenses instead of using the car insurance. That was their choice. The clause in it is a fairly standard one for businesses to have. As such the lawyer and family should not have settled so quickly and taken it to court to make sure that the Wal-mart health plan was reimbursed as well as having enough for legal fees and the family. Since the woman is disabled she would be entitled to get Social Security and medicare which would pay for most of her care. Of course the fact that the family wants her to have a private room and a private nurse does cut into the money very quickly. The one article stated she recently had to give up the private nurse due to costs but still had her private room at the facility. Another also stated her husband divorced her so she could then get more from medicaid. I'd like to know why she's even getting medicaid at this point. The fact that the family didn't think Wal-Mart would want the money doesn't make Wal-Mart guilty of anything. Just means the family wanted to have all the money they could get and should have taken into account the fact they would have to pay their debts with it. Also the fact that her son recently was killed in Iraq has nothing to do with this. I'm sorry for her loss but it has nothing to do with the case. Should wal-mart and every other major business give money out to everyone who has lost a child due to a war? If so then let the lines begin.
@emeraldisle (13145)
• United States
28 Mar 08
As I said I've read several articles on this subject and all I'm saying is Wal-mart is not the villain. The lawyer maybe one but not Wal-mart. The family chose to use the insurance and then didn't want to repay it. Well then Wal-mart has the right to sue them for it. I'm just tired of everyone trying to blame corporate America for everything when it's not their fault. I'm seeing these articles about this woman and "Oh how sad she can't have a private nurse anymore" and "they are taking her money after she just lost her son in Iraq". The family is looking for a escape goat and the press is helping them It is sensationalistic reporting and from what I'm reading a lot of it is being left out; which I tried to bring up. Why did they settle for so little? Why is she on medicaid and not medicare for example? How she can have medicaid while having all this other money in the bank? Why is she entitled to a private room and so on? Why didn't the lawyer warn the family that Wal-Mart could take the money? All of these and more. Issues that aren't being put into the articles. As for what has happened in my life yes I have something similar going on. My niece was a crossing guard. She was hit by a truck. The school is saying they don't have to pay for her medical because she's a volunteer although for right now they are paying it and the trucking company is saying they aren't at fault since she was in the middle of the road. She will never work again, will never live on her own, etc. She is very much like this woman but she is only in her 20's. She will never have a child or anything like a normal life again. She (actually her mother since she is her legal guardian) will have to sue in order to get the medical care that is needed. Now if there is a clause in her coverage for the same thing then she better sue for more then what she has to repay. She should make sure she sues and has it where they have to cover all future medical needs and pay for past ones. That is something they can have done.
1 person likes this
@anniepa (27245)
• United States
28 Mar 08
I'm sorry about your niece and I wish her only the best. I also want to apologize if I seemed harsh but I stand by my original statements about Wal-Mart, I DO blame them because they could have shown some compassion here. I don't know why she would have been on Medicaid instead of Medicare but maybe she's not approved yet? That can take forever, even in extreme conditions like hers. Medicare alone wouldn't come close to paying for around the clock nursing home care and if they owned a home or owned anything at all it would be taken from them, so if her husband divorced her that may be why also. As far as her having a private room or a private nurse, I'm sure her family wanted the very best possible care for her and you don't always get that in a nursing home, I know from when my mother was in one after breaking her hip. It's not the nurses or nursing assistants' faults either, they're always working shorthanded so the patients don't always get the attention they need. I does seem as though somebody overlooked something here because the money she was awarded was supposed to be put into a trust fund for her long term care. If they settled without trying for me or why they did so if they did, I don't know but they possibly were really strapped for money. I still think Wal-mart should do the right thing. If it were just a minor accident and someone had gotten a settlement it would be different but sometimes regardless of the fine print exceptions should be made and Wal-Mart can more than afford to make an exception for this woman. Annie
1 person likes this
@emeraldisle (13145)
• United States
28 Mar 08
The thing is though if that money is in trust for her then she still wouldn't have gotten medicaid. All they look at is how much money you have, doesn't matter if it's in trust or not. That's why I'm saying things don't add up right in these articles. Oh and believe me I know how long it takes to get approved for Social Security since I'm fighting for it. I also cannot get medicaid, because I'm not classified disabled by Social Security yet nor am I 5 months pregnant (those are the only two ways I can qualify for it) so I have to wonder how she is getting it. I'm sure the family does want her to have quality care but the thing is she can get that without a private room and so on. I know how Nursing homes are, I've worked numerous ones over the years when I could as have other family members. You can have quality care without one on one and without a private room. The thing is though the article stated the family knew Wal-Mart would want the money but they figured since they didn't ask for it immediately they would be able to keep it. They knew they owed it and didn't pay it. So they could have sued for a lot more but they choose not to. Also where then does Wal-Mart draw the line? They make the exception here but what about others. "Well you let her have it why not me?". It would set a precedent and others would be quick to jump on the bandwagon not just with Wal-Mart but with any other company. It wouldn't matter if it was an extreme case or not, they would try to spin it to their best advantage and make Wal-Mart look the bad guy and as shown in here society seems quick to think that because it's a corporation that they should bow out and let the person have the money whether they are entitled to it or not. All it would take is them making it into a sob story. For example: "I couldn't work for three weeks and I'll have the power turned off and I have a baby in the house. Wal-Mart shouldn't take my money." Anyone can make it sound bad whether it's really that bad or not. The press pounces hoping to sell papers and people jump to side with the person because they want to be able to blame companies for the problems.