Sunday, December 16, 2007

Deborah Shank Needs Your Help

Seven years ago, a semi-trailer plowed into the driver's side of Deborah Shank's minivan. The 52-year-old Missouri Wal-Mart employee and devoted mother of three suffered permanent brain damage. Today she lives in a nursing home for round-the clock care, unable to walk, feed or dress herself.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on November 20, it's a tragic story - but it gets worse:

"Wal-Mart started out as one of the good guys in this story, paying almost $470,000 of Shank's initial medical bills. But three years after Shank's husband sued and settled with the semi driver's employer, the retail giant changed hats. It demanded every penny back, plus interest and legal fees -- more, in fact, than the $417,477 the settlement had placed in a special trust fund specifically for Shank's future health care expenses."

Wal-Mart sued a permanently brain-damaged woman out of her medical care funds. Thanks to her former employer - the world's largest retailer - Deborah's family is sinking deeper into debt and Deborah will be completely dependent on Medicaid and Social Security for a lifetime of medical care.

Wal-Mart Watch is collecting funds to help Deborah Shank's family with her medical bills.

Will you make a donation?

Wal-Mart's actions are horribly unethical and morally bankrupt, but the company says it's legal - and it's right about that.

As the Wall Street Journal explains:

The reason is a clause in Wal-Mart's health plan that Mrs. Shank didn't notice when she started stocking shelves at a nearby store eight years ago. Like most company health plans, Wal-Mart's reserves the right to recoup the medical expenses it paid for someone's treatment if the person also collects damages in an injury suit.

In cases like the Shanks', where injuries and medical costs are catastrophic, accident victims sometimes can be left with little or none of the money they fight for in court. Company health plans are increasingly adopting language such as Wal-Mart's, which dictates that it is to be paid first out of any settlement, regardless of what remains for the injured person. Moreover, the victim is responsible for all legal costs in pursuing the suit.

Last year the U.S. District Court sided with Wal-Mart over the Shank family - making its ruling just six days before Deborah Shank's 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed while serving in Iraq.

The decision has forced Deborah's family to take drastic measures.

Earlier this year, her husband divorced her because of advice from a health care administrator, who said that she would qualify for more public assistance as a single woman.

The Shanks aren't gold-diggers. They are an honest, hard-working American family trying to deal with a catastrophic event, and now they're doing it with an empty wallet - thanks to Wal-Mart.

Please do your part to help the Shank family by making a donation now:
http://action.walmartwatch.com/deborahshank

This holiday season, Wal-Mart rolled out a new slogan: "Save money. Live better."

But who lives better with Wal-Mart's low prices? Clearly, it isn't Wal-Mart employees like Deborah Shank.

Sincerely,
David Nassar
Wal-Mart Watch

2 comments:

Clubbs said...

One other tragic side of this story often gets missed: The Shanks' oldest son Jeremy was killed in Iraq in 2006, in the midst of all of their health care struggles.

Can you imagine?

Anonymous said...

this is a tragedy, but just for the record jeremy is the middle son of the shank's