Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Low low values

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann is reporting that Wal-Mart has relented. The Shanks get to keep their money. Hip Hip Hooray!

I'm going to apologize in advance for this - I'm cranky. I also have to apologize for bringing my personal beliefs into my normally easy going posts, but I'm hopping mad about this and I have to share. If you are familiar with the news story involving Deborah Shank, you probably know where this is going. If not, please read on. This is something I think we should all be aware of before we spend any money at Wal-Mart.

Now, I've always felt a little queasy about shopping there. I know the low prices are at a high cost to somebody - the staff, the mom and pop shops nearby, the overseas manufacturers or the US jobs - somebody pays for us being able to buy pants for six bucks. I've known this for awhile, but dang it, when you are broke, sometimes you have to put your outrage in perspective. Not so now. I am not going to spend one thin dime at Wal-Mart until they resolve the issue of Deborah Shank.

Mrs (now Ms.) Shank worked at Wal-Mart stocking shelves. She was enrolled in the company health plan. Unfortunately for Mrs. Shank, she was in an automobile accident eight years ago which caused severe brain damage. She now lives in a nursing home and has short term memory loss; she'll never be the same.

Mr and Mrs Shank sued the trucking company involved in the accident and received a one million dollar settlement. After legal fees, the Shanks were left with about $420,000 for Mrs. Shank's lifetime care. She's only in her early 50s, so that isn't much money for round the clock nursing home care. Wal-Mart, her employer, had paid about $470,000 in medical expenses for Mrs. Shank. Unfortunately, there is a clause in the medical policy that allows Wal-Mart to go after any settlements to repay the company for medical expenses. Wal-Mart sued the Shanks and won. The Shanks have about $200,000 of the original settlement left but Wal-Mart is owed the full $420K. As if this wasn't bad enough, and it is plenty bad, after losing their suit with Wal-Mart, the Shanks lost their son in Iraq. Because of Mrs. Shank's injury, she has to learn about her son's death every day - every day because she can't remember that he has died. Her husband works two jobs to try to support the family, though technically he is no longer her husband; he had to divorce her so she could receive a few more dollars from medicaid as a single woman.

So this poor devastated woman whose life was destroyed was sued by a company that grossed 90 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2007 for a paltry $420K. The company says that gosh darn it they are sorry but rules are rules. The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the case and so the Shanks are just out of luck.

The only way to help teach corporate giants that they must have compassion and morality is to stop shopping there until they shape up. I hope you will consider this before purchasing anything at Wal-Mart.

My hero, reporter Keith Olbermann, is going to keep this on the forefront by talking about it every day until the company makes a change. Please watch his report for a chance to see Edward R Murrow back in action.

Oh how I wish this was an April Fools' joke.


Heidi said...

I believe it's called subrogation--when the insurance company goes after the third party if you win a settlement to recover what they paid to you. All insurers do it, not just Wal-Mart, so this isn't just another eeevil Wal-Mart thing. Heck, when my DH jumped out of an airplane and landed on his head, even the military insurance folks called me asking if there was a 3rd party involved in the accident (the Earth? The force of gravity?) that they could go after to recover the funds they paid out for his care at a civilian ER.

Now, that said--it would be good PR for Wal-Mart's insurer to turn around and donate the $420K back to the woman. However, if they do that for her, then don't they have to do that for everybody whose case gets subrogated? I'm not so sure it's as clear-cut as it seems.

Kimberly Ann said...

I get the subrogation idea - and for settlements of big money I agree that the insurance company shouldn't be left holding the bag. But to go after a settlement that is less than the expenses themselves, that just seems too much greed. I think they should tap into those huge profits and change their policy to reflect that they review each situation and apply some fair principles of dollars spent versus settlement amount. Something that makes sense. I agree there isn't an easy solution but there has to be something better than this. Thanks for your thoughts, Heidi!

Doralong said...

I think morally nauseating is the term we're looking for here.

Professor said...

There are so many things wrong here. It's horrible. I'm sickened by Wal-Mart.