Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kindness Plug




This one is slightly different than most of the others, simply because there does not appear to be a focused effort to help this woman. The person who sent me this, just sent the link. I am posting the entire story here, but feel free to click over to CNN if you want to read it there.

Hi Enty -

This story was new to me - and it's incredibly horrible. I've done a bit of research and while there's a Bank of America fund that was set up in this woman's name, I can't find anything about a website or any kind of public call to help her and her family. They clearly need and deserve it. Is this something you'd put on the blog?

A devoted reader...


Debbie Shank breaks down in tears every time she's told that her 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq.

The 52-year-old mother of three attended her son's funeral, but she continues to ask how he's doing. When her family reminds her that he's dead, she weeps as if hearing the news for the first time.

Shank suffered severe brain damage after a traffic accident nearly eight years ago that robbed her of much of her short-term memory and left her in a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.

It was the beginning of a series of battles -- both personal and legal -- that loomed for Shank and her family. One of their biggest was with Wal-Mart's health plan.

Eight years ago, Shank was stocking shelves for the retail giant and signed up for Wal-Mart's health and benefits plan.

Two years after the accident, Shank and her husband, Jim, were awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the crash. After legal fees were paid, $417,000 was placed in a trust to pay for Debbie Shank's long-term care.

Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank's medical expenses and later sued for the same amount. However, the court ruled it can only recoup what is left in the family's trust.

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.

The family's attorney, Maurice Graham, said he informed Wal-Mart about the settlement and believed the Shanks would be allowed to keep the money. Video Watch this couple's story »

"We assumed after three years, they [Wal-Mart] had made a decision to let Debbie Shank use this money for what it was intended to," Graham said.

The Shanks lost their suit to Wal-Mart. Last summer, the couple appealed the ruling -- but also lost it. One week later, their son was killed in Iraq.

"They are quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad," Jim Shank said.

In 2007, the retail giant reported net sales in the third quarter of $90 billion.

Legal or not, CNN asked Wal-Mart why the company pursued the money.

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."

Jim Shank said he believes Wal-Mart should make an exception.

"My idea of a win-win is -- you keep the paperwork that says you won and let us keep the money so I can take care of my wife," he said.

The family's situation is so dire that last year Jim Shank divorced Debbie, so she could receive more money from Medicaid.

Jim Shank, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer, works two jobs and struggles to pay the bills. He's afraid he won't be able to send their youngest son to college and pay for his and Debbie's care.

"Who needs the money more? A disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future, whatsoever, or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion, plus $200,000?" he asked.

The family's attorney agrees.

"The recovery that Debbie Shank made was recovery for future lost earnings, for her pain and suffering," Graham said.

"She'll never be able to work again. Never have a relationship with her husband or children again. The damage she recovered was for much more than just medical expenses."

Graham said he believes Wal-Mart should be entitled to only about $100,000. Right now, about $277,000 remains in the trust -- far short of the $470,000 Wal-Mart wants back.

Refusing to give up the fight, the Shanks appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But just last week, the high court said it would not hear the case.

Graham said the Shanks have exhausted all their resources and there's nothing more they can do but go on with their lives.

The family's attorney, Maurice Graham, said he informed Wal-Mart about the settlement and believed the Shanks would be allowed to keep the money. Video Watch this couple's story »

"We assumed after three years, they [Wal-Mart] had made a decision to let Debbie Shank use this money for what it was intended to," Graham said.

The Shanks lost their suit to Wal-Mart. Last summer, the couple appealed the ruling -- but also lost it. One week later, their son was killed in Iraq.

"They are quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad," Jim Shank said.

In 2007, the retail giant reported net sales in the third quarter of $90 billion.

Legal or not, CNN asked Wal-Mart why the company pursued the money.

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."

Jim Shank said he believes Wal-Mart should make an exception.

"My idea of a win-win is -- you keep the paperwork that says you won and let us keep the money so I can take care of my wife," he said.

The family's situation is so dire that last year Jim Shank divorced Debbie, so she could receive more money from Medicaid.

Jim Shank, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer, works two jobs and struggles to pay the bills. He's afraid he won't be able to send their youngest son to college and pay for his and Debbie's care.

"Who needs the money more? A disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future, whatsoever, or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion, plus $200,000?" he asked.

The family's attorney agrees.

"The recovery that Debbie Shank made was recovery for future lost earnings, for her pain and suffering," Graham said.

"She'll never be able to work again. Never have a relationship with her husband or children again. The damage she recovered was for much more than just medical expenses."

Graham said he believes Wal-Mart should be entitled to only about $100,000. Right now, about $277,000 remains in the trust -- far short of the $470,000 Wal-Mart wants back.

Refusing to give up the fight, the Shanks appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But just last week, the high court said it would not hear the case.

Graham said the Shanks have exhausted all their resources and there's nothing more they can do but go on with their lives.

43 comments:

maryja said...

Fucking Wal-Mart. Just another reason for me to never step foot inside one of their stores.

Chatty Cricket said...

Ok, I'll probably have my head bitten off for this, but I read this story yesterday, and I can't help but feel as though if people have a problem with the way Wal*Mart is handling this (based on Insurance Policy), then exercise your FREE MARKET rights and don't shop at Wal*Mart.

Use Capitalism to send your message.

merrick said...

Chatty, I agree with you and this is a sad story .. I cant even imagine what life is like for this family .. I can only hope an effort is mounted to push Wal Mart to do the right thing and screw policy .. pay it forward and see what happens!

jax said...

why is walmart not going after the truck driver who caused the whole fucking thing???

jlb said...

I haven't supported Walmart in over 3 years. Their business practices make my stomach turn - all the small business they've deliberately forced out, the crappy way their employees are treated, and their horrible customer service.

Best wishes to this family.

Naples Tax Lawyer said...

I handle a few of these cases every year and Wal Mart's plan does not have the flexibility to do what everyone wants to have done. Shitty, yes, but probably correct. After all, if they didn't go after the $$ then some retired Walmart employee would sue them for not getting the money back. Either way they look like asses.

If WalMart is serious, they can try & amend the plan, but when you get into the area of benefitting ony one person, it could disqualify the tax benefits, which would cost eveybody a lot more than $400K.

Brenda22 said...

So disgusting. Do they not have any sense of human dececny?
I have shopped there twice in my life mainly because stepping in there is like stepping into the twilight zone (people with Mullets) But I am never going there agian.

Brenda22 said...

Ted,
First off, if they had just quietly dismissed this and chosen not to go after this woman's family for the money, no one would even know about it. How would any of Walmart's employees know about this? Even if something similar happened in the future, a one time exception would not waive Walmart's "right" to enforce the contract against someone else.

Secondly, if Walmart is so worried about the consequences if they make an exception, then why not just frame it another way? Why not just pretend like they are donating money to a former employee who was badly injured?

Murphy Brown 2020 said...

This has my heart pounding. I KNOW that shit like this goes on every single goddamn day in this country, that it's dog-eat-dog or whatever, and that we have the right in this culture to wield our capitalist heft and NOT shop at shitholes like fucking Walmart, but this is still absolutely outrageous. Mr. Shanks is a brave dude for undertaking such a legal struggle.

Interesting that Walmart is run by a bunch of Neo-Christian fucktards, too. Aren't something like SIX of them in the Forbes Top Ten List? Ominous.

Have any of you read Barbara Eirenreich's (I don't believe I got the surname right, but it's Germanic in nature like that one) book Nickel and Dimed? She changes her identity and works a series of very shitty menial jobs -- one of which happens to be a stint at Walmart. BE's description of how deplorably the corporation treats its employees prompted me to stop shopping there for good.

Anyway, I'm really glad that we're all kinda on the same page here.

Kory said...

We are all paying for this woman's upkeep through our tax dollars being re-allocated to Medicaid. Someone always pays.

I have never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart and never will. This is just one reason. There are so many that I could unroll a scroll and have it roll across the floor.

catherine said...

The bad press alone will cost them at least half a mil, Brenda is right, they dont need to hide underneath ther crappy insurance policy, they could give a donation to a former employee whos family is going through hell right now.This particular corporation makes me sick, even if there was a Walmart near me, i would never step foot in one.

catherine said...

The bad press alone will cost them at least half a mil, Brenda is right, they dont need to hide underneath ther crappy insurance policy, they could give a donation to a former employee whos family is going through hell right now.This particular corporation makes me sick, even if there was a Walmart near me, i would never step foot in one.

briansworld said...

Disgusting! You leave your feedback on this form.
http://www.walmartstores.com/contactus/feedback.aspx
Choose "feedback" and "corporate office."
Let's storm them with our thoughts on this!

briansworld said...

Global Ethics Office? There's an email. This seems like an even better contact...

Contacting the Global Ethics Office

The Global Ethics Office serves as a guide and resource for ethical decision making based on the Wal-Mart Statement of Ethics. The office also provides associates with a confidential reporting system to raise ethics concerns by calling the Global Ethics Helpline. Customers, suppliers and supplier factory workers may also call the helpline by using a local phone number in more than 40 countries. Although Wal-Mart does not own, operate or manage any factories, the Global Ethics Office manages a formal process to immediately investigate any concern voiced by a factory employee and take corrective action through the Wal-Mart Ethical Standards Program.

Contact Us
If you have a question about the Statement of Ethics, need help with an ethical dilemma or need to raise an ethics concern, call the Global Ethics Helpline by selecting your country from the list below to find the local phone number.

Online
walmartethics.com
ethics@wal-mart.com

Mail:
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Global Ethics Office
702 Southwest 8th Street,
Bentonville, AR
U.S.A.72716-0860

Leah said...

Hey, don't make fun of the mentally retarded by associating them with the Wal-Mart "Fucktards."

My son is mentally retarded and he has more sense than those losers at Wal-Mart.

Leah said...

And Ent,
you're a good doobie for posting this story. Here's hoping that Wal-Mart loses 20 times that amount due to folks choosing to shop elsewhere.

lyz said...

Here's the response I got from my e-mail:

Lyz,

This is a very sad case and we understand that people will naturally have an emotional and sympathetic reaction.


When our associates, or their family members, suffer injuries or medical conditions which are the responsibility of others, our plan steps in to pay covered medical expenses so the associate and their families don't have to worry about their bills or have large out-of-pocket expenses. It is only after the associate or their family member receives a monetary payment from the party responsible for causing the injury or accident that our health plan becomes entitled to reimbursement.

While the Shank case involves a tragic situation, the reality is that the health plan is required to protect its assets so that it can pay the future claims of other associates and their family members.


These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business. This is done out of fairness to everyone who contributes to and benefits from the plan.

The Supreme Court's denial of the Shank appeal concludes all litigation. The Court ruled that the benefit plan was entitled to the funds in the trust account, which was about $280,000, which is all it requested.

Regards,
Global Ethics Office

Kat said...

I'm actually pretty impressed with the comments posted here. I have always hated Wal-mart, and everything it stands for.

A few years ago, I read about a man who worked as a manager for this particular retailer. He was working something like 80 hours a week during peak season, and when he said he didn't think he couldn't physically handle it anymore, they told him it was non-negotiable, essentially putting his job on the line. He ended up having a fatal heart attack as a result. The kicker here is that Wal-Mart supposedly takes out insurance on their full-time staff, and in this case the money they received for his death was used to train someone to replace him. In short, they pushed him to his death, and used the insurance money to line up another duck. Classy. I actually mentioned this to one of their recruiters who was trying to get me to consider working there. She went quiet and thanked me for my time.

I refuse to shop there, for this reason and for the fact that 90% or more of the merchandise they sell is manufactured in China, thus rendering it garbage. I also don't do 'Dollar' stores, because it makes no sense to buy something that is harmful or defective, supporting another country's economy while your own is going down in flames.

Spend the extra money and buy from reputable companies with quality product. In the long run, the extra money spent makes a hell of a lot more sense.

Ali @ His Birdie's Nest said...

I read this article on Perez Hilton this morning and it made me sick! I haven't shopped at Wal*Mart for years b/c I can't stand the store and their business practices, but this seals it for me.

Is there a fund ppl can donate money? I'm sorry if miss that in the article?

lyz said...

Here's my response to their e-mail:

Keep your canned e-mail and keep your stock on your shelves. Has Walmart made a donation in the amount of $200,000+ to the Shank family? No, I'm sure not. What is $200,000 to Walmart? It's not even lunch money.

Again, Walmart's greed disgusts me. Don't blame your "plan". Make a LARGE donation to the family.

Ali @ His Birdie's Nest said...

GO Lyz!

Dead Angel said...

Go on with their lives, that's rich.

Well, I've only been in a Wal Mart once and hadn't planned to go back but anyone who considers themselves human beings should boycott that store, even if it hurts for a while. What a horrible company. NEVER will they get one dime of my money.

Unknown said...

Again, I HATE WALMART!!!! I stopped shopping there 10 years ago, when will the rest of america join me????

Anonymous said...

yet another reason why I refuse to shop there. every few years it seems an article like this comes out. some employee get sick/injured/etc. and WalMart gives them the shaft. about 5 or 6 years ago they went on a whole PR defense by airing commercials about how they've helped employees w/ sick kids. utter bullshit.

the only thing they care about is money. they don't care about how and why they get their stock for so cheap, and they sure as fuck don't care about their employees or the communities where they have stores.

Ellebee said...

I have not shopped at Wal-Mart for about a year. I do not miss it in any way, shape or form.

This is disgusting and horrific. Sadly, there are many companies that treat their employees like lab rats worth about 25 cents.

I worked HR at a company with almost 500 employees and I mentioned that we needed to make sure we followed proper labor laws including overtime, breaks and lunch schedules. The CEO told me essentially to shut up and that what the employees don't know is the company's gain. I also fought for decent health care coverage, however, the employees had to pay for the majority of the coverage--while the company's executive staff had more than enough extra $$$$$. Also, this company had problems with making payroll a couple of times... Something needs to be done.

lachickforever said...

Did the Global Ethics office mention how this woman is supposed to support herself for the rest of her life? Goddamn assholes!

lachickforever said...

The Court ruled that the benefit plan was entitled to the funds in the trust account, which was about $280,000, which is all it requested.

Regards,
Global Ethics Office


So they "only" asked for every penny she had left to her name? Yeah that makes it better.

Ayesha said...

Thank you for posting this story. Everyone needs to know about this. I just saw this on Keith Olberman.

My ex-BF's father was a supplier to Wal-Mart. When they had to send a fax to him, they sent it collect. That's right. His secretary had to accept the collect call and then transfer it to the fax machine.

CT-Hilltopper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judi said...

We don't do Wal-Mart and never will. Just because they had the right to recoup the $ doesn't mean that they had to exercise that right. It was discretionary. They're scum.

CT-Hilltopper said...

Also, if Bank of America is starting a fund in her name, someone had better make damn sure that Wal-Mart cannot get their full $470,000 out of that fund. Make sure it can only go to the family for living and medical expenses. I want to make sure my money will go to help this family, not to Wal-Mart because someone in Bank of America didn't foresee the legalities.

Unknown said...

We moved to this country for more than trhree years ago, and used to shop at Wal-Mart. (Wow! Everything is $1!) After listening to some of the check-out persons' stories, and seeing the documentary "The High Cost of Low Price" we were left with a bad taste in our mouths. We will NEVER go back, and tell everyone we know that we don't support this terror regime.

Thank you for writing about this, Ent!

CT-Hilltopper said...

There is another great article regarding this case at the Wall Street Journal site.

In reading it, I found that the settlement was for much less than a million dollars. The settlement reached with the trucking company was for $700,000, with the family getting the bulk of the settlement ($417,000).

The legal fees I was upset about earler were based on the payout being much closer to a million dollars.

The corrected information I got here:
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119551952474798582.html

Nikhil said...

nice blog.................... plz check my blog for crazy videos and tech news......
http://www.madboon.blogspot.com

RagDoll said...

First off the Global Ethics person who said they're "only" asking for $280,000 is sorta kinda lying. The courts ruled that Wal*Mart may only try and go after what money the family has left ($280,000) as opposed to pursuing the entire $470,000 amount.


Second:

THIS is what I REALLY think is unethical and slimy....Wal*Mart's insurance participation stipulations.

It's called "subrogation" (I think...)Basically, it keeps the family from what Wal-Mart thinks is "double-dipping" in this case, getting money from insurance and getting money from Wal-mart. I think the family's attorney really screwed up by not reading the fine print in the contract, but why on EARTH would Wal-Mart want this publicity NIGHTMARE on their hands??? Jeez, the Husband is a recovering cancer patient, the wife is impaired for life, and Wal-Mart?

Well, don't like, 10 or 12 of the world's richest people sit on their board of directors? It's disgusting. And people aren't stupid. There will one day be a straw which breaks the proverbial camel's back and I feel there will be a full-on revolution. 1770's style! Damn, man! This is a little too much! It's like this company is saying to America, with it's Corporate Middle Finger fully extended:

"Yeah, we're a-holes, huh? Suck it. You'll shop here anyway, because you're all inveterate bargain hunters, and we'll KEEP you shopping here by making gas $5 a gallon, hell where else can you afford to shop"


It really sickens me.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you're a lawyer based on this story. I was injured severely and have been told by every single lawyer that regardless of the amount of any award I get, the insurance companies who paid my medical bills get reimbursed before I get a penny. That's the way it works, and for anybody to think this story is unfair has no idea how these situations work. This is life in the US for anybody injured and seeking an award. My own story is actually even worse than theirs, because I didn't have the fortune of being able to get money from somebody with such deep pockets. They should be happy with their $400,000 cuz that's a lot more than most people will see in settlements where lawyers and insurance companies are involved. Give me a break. Sob story? Hardly. Legally wrong? Nope.

Unknown said...

Lissa, so you believe what "every single lawyer" tells you.

You don't know as much as you proclaim. You also don't know the details of how the billing and charges of the medical procedures and trial and other details to determine anything about this story.

((((( Walmart is f'd up, but I don't shop there anyways. I have before though. I regret not acting sooner when I heard about the Aquadots recall.

Was anyone able to purchase Aquadots last year after learning they were contaminated with GHB? )))))

disturbia said...

I think that you are all missing one aspect of this story. If you have a health plan that forces you to pay back any insurance monies received, why would you even bother putting yourself through the hassle of a court case? Might as well let Walmart's lawyers go through all the trouble, if they are just going to wind up with the money in the end anyway. If you're lucky, there might be a few shekels left over for you, as I'm sure that Walmart's lawyers are all first rate.

There is a real inequity here, in that the insurance fund pays for some people's treatment without recompense but not others. Recapping the above question, why not just let Walmart pay, first the medical bills then the legal fees to recoup any "investment" in your care? If you're not going to see any cash, why would you bother helping Walmart.

I will truly never set foot inside a Walmart again.

plot said...

"While the Shank case involves a tragic situation, the reality is that the health plan is required to protect its assets so that it can pay the future claims of other associates and their family members."

The "health" plan is being used to make profits for Walmart, which is not supposed to be the intention of real health plans.

Walmart, with it's heavy influence of Fundie Xtians and Mormons, is completely unethical. It pretends to insure it's employees when it's using employee's personal funds as their own capital.

Shop at Kmart. The Kresge Foundation has a looooong history of both private and public charities it contributes to - while Walmart's leaders build more mega-churches and think themselves saved.

Lisa said...

Wal-Mart is evil. I refuse to shop there. I'd rather pay more to shop elsewhere.

SHE SHE said...

Wal-Mart - I'd rather take a beating then shop there. The whole company sucks rhino dick.

Layla said...

Lissa - My first thought too when I read this was that there was no way Ent is a lawyer. I just went though a settlement myself for a car accident. My lawyer made sure to verify that my insurance company could legally subrogate (not all companies can) and knew the amount they were asking for prior to going into the settlement negotiations. This way the other party could take into account how much of the settlement was going to the insurance company and (in theory) adjust the amount awarded to compensate.

plot said...

Layla, I've worked with criminal and estates attorneys who wouldn't know a subrogate from a groundhog.

Not all lawyers are equal.

And concerning this case, the woman doesn't have the funds to maintain her constant need for care. Walmart is trying to sue for what little means she has, in effect, denying her the insurance she PAID for while an employee.

Legal? yes. Ethical? Hell no.

Advertisement

Popular Posts from the last 30 days