Walmart Pays For Brain Damaged Employee's Medical Bills, Then Sues For The Money Back

A Walmart employee was hit by a semi, leaving her permanently brain-damaged and in a wheelchair. Walmart paid for her medical fees and her family successfully sued the trucking company. Now Walmart wants all the money she got from the trucking company. The family only has Social Security benefits and medicaid to pay for her 24 hour medical care. The company health plan contains a clause that allows it to recoup medical expenses it paid if the person also wins damages in an injury suit. This cost-effective management of the employee health plan is just another way Walmart delivers America everday low prices.

Accident Victims Face Grab for Legal Winnings [WSJ]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Starfury says:

    Way to go WalMart!

    Thanks for providing ANOTHER reason I won’t shop there any more.


  2. girly says:

    legal, yet scummy

  3. SOhp101 says:

    I think Wal-Mart is in the right here, but it should only be allowed to take up to the value of the settlement after legal fees. Sounds cruel but they’re the ones who really paid for all of her expenses.

    Then again, it’s not like they really helped during the litigation process against the tuck company (or did they?), so I could see both sides of the argument.

  4. sonichghog says:

    Was the suit againt the trucking company just for medical expences? I would think that whatever was for medical compensation they could take, but anything else the couple should keep.

  5. emilymarion333 says:

    Even though this is a terrible story and it sounds like the people do need the money – this is a standard clause if a settlement is reached. Many people do not understand that.

  6. Bladefist says:

    Walmart has nothing to worry about. This story, and 50,000 more wouldn’t affect their stock .01% Because you can get glassware 88 cents cheaper.

  7. humphrmi says:

    This is called Subrogation and it’s a standard clause in just about every health care contract that every employer offers. I hate Wal-Mart, but they’re not wrong here. Wal-Mart (actually their insurance carrier) paid her medical expenses, then the responsible party paid them. Wal-Mart’s insurance carrier deserves to get some back.

  8. DrGirlfriend says:

    I know this is not just legal, but not uncommon. It still leaves me feeling oogy, though.

  9. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Now Walmart wants all the money she got from the trucking company.

    See, that line makes it look worse than it is. It makes it sound like any and all money she got, wal-mart wants (beyond what they paid out).

    Why should she get 2x medical expenses?

  10. MsClear says:

    Just another way that ordinary Americans suffer because they lack a universal health care safety net.

    Wal-Mart was perfectly within its rights. That’s why this case is oh so wrong. We need a universal safety net for all Americans.

  11. girly says:

    well, her medical care probably will probably cost 2x what they gave her

  12. DrGirlfriend says:

    I just realized why I’m uncomfortable with subrogation. She has continuing medical needs that will cost a lot of money. The insurance company paid for the initial medical costs related to the accident. What about continuing care? The don’t have insurance through Walmart anymore because she clearly can’t work. Medicaid is not always a viable alternative for continuing care. So what happens to her now? I think this is kind of situation is one that needs to be looked at more closely.

  13. XTC46 says:

    I agree she should not get to keep all the money paid for medical, but should be able to keep what ever she paid out in legal fee’s + emotional damage etc.

  14. SOhp101 says:

    @DrGirlfriend: Well she should have gotten disability insurance. That would have clearly helped her in this case. I still feel really bad for her family though.

  15. impudence says:

    @AlteredBeast: “Why should she get 2x medical expenses?”

    How do you figure she gets 2x medical expenses. The suit is for pain and suffering and lost future earnings. The suit was about the condition she is in now, not her medical bills.

    Shame on walmart, shame on all of the commenters above who defend walmart and shame on every person who continues to shop there. walmart is what is wrong with this country.

  16. timmus says:

    Wal-Mart’s website has a massive “Community” page outlining how they spend $170 million to help the disadvantaged. If this is TRULY the spirit of their company, then suing a victim to leave them completely destitute really taints all the corporate whitewashing they’re trying to do.

  17. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:


    I thought that all that Wal-Mart could go after was medical expenses it laid out (and perhaps lost earnings). Isn’t that what they are trying to get back?

  18. Murph1908 says:

    There are also benefits such as long-term disability that would help in this case. If she were enrolled in a LTD plan, she would still receive part of her salary while unable to work.

    Other ordinary Americans would suffer if there was a universal health care safety net. We would suffer in the form of increased taxes and decreases in other programs.

    I work, and I have medical insurance, and I have LTD and STD insurance. Do you?

  19. boandmichele says:

    @impudence: you are so right on every point.

    why? why would they want that money anyway? if they advertise healthcare benefits as part of a job package, they dont have to ‘recoup’ their losses. thats like recouping the ‘losses’ you infer when you do payroll.

    there is no need for this mega-corporation to take these people’s money. sure, its legal, because it was in the contract. (yet another thing wrong with this country. should we take legalese as a second language in high school, along with a basic law course?)

    some sam walton fan club member will tell me to move to another country i’m sure, but something should be done to fix this one for crying out loud.

  20. ManiacDan says:

    Wal-Mart was not at fault when this woman got hurt, so why should wal-mart have to pay out of pocket for her medical expenses? When you pay for insurance, you’re paying for the prospect of payment for injuries that you are at fault for or injuries where the at-fault party is unable to pay.

    In this woman’s case, a large company was at fault for her injuries. Wal-Mart did the right thing by helping her get immediate medical attention while her case was pending against the trucking company. Once fault was assessed and the trucking company coughed up the dough, Wal-Mart should be reimbursed for their expenses in covering this woman in her time of need.

    This situation has happened to me twice. In the most recent case, my wife was hit buy a reckless driver and needed emergency attention. Blue Cross/Blue Shield paid for the emergency room visit ($5,000). When I received a settlement from the other driver’s insurance company ($10,000) $5,000 of that went to BC/BS. What is so “evil” about that scenario? It happens every day of the week, and no one should be shocked about that sort of policy.

    And why is this story even on the Consumerist? Why isn’t it “Woman gets hit by truck and has to resort to a lawsuit to get her money (some of which was reimbursed to her insurance company who was nice enough to cover her expenses during the trial)”

    There are arguments to be made here again the health care system in general, but I have to say that even though I’m normally very anti-Wal-Mart, I’m on their side in this one. The money should have been paid by someone else, and Wal-Mart paid it in good faith that it would be returned to them when the responsible party gave it up.

  21. boandmichele says:

    and to the people that are saying she should just have bought more insurance, what? should we just spend all our paychecks on various insurances?

    greed insurance would be a good one to have, apparently.

  22. canerican says:

    She sued for damages and won. Like alot of people are saying why should someone get paid for their medical expenses, and then get paid again. This is a manufactured controversy by Wal-Mart haters and Socialists.

  23. spinachdip says:

    @SOhp101: *All* her expenses? She’s going to have huge medical bills the rest of her life with no income.

  24. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @boandmichele: There should be an insurance just to protect consumers when they get screwed by companies.

  25. erratapage says:

    Generally, damages in a personal injury suit are broken down into lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. I’m curious whether the settlement was a general settlement or whether it was allocated according to these categories. Certainly, the health care provider should be receive subrogation, but only to the extent that the claim was for past medical expenses.

    The result in this case just seems overreaching to me given the extreme injury involved.

  26. Vanvi says:

    This bothered me enough to sign up so I could comment. My problem is that the Shanks have been paying premiums to the insurance company and their premiums (plus everybody else’s premiums) are there exactly to cover the payouts when someone has a catastrophic accident. Anything they get from a settlement is above and beyond what they’re entitled to so they should get to keep it. Also, a lawsuit is not just about the money won, but about time, effort, stress, legal fees, etc . . . If they have to give Walmart the money, then they are far worse off then when they started.

  27. protmind says:

    This is absurd. Walmart is taking this too far. The point of all this insurance is to make this woman whole again. The settlement and Walmart’s payments come nowhere near to doing this as she will need care the rest of her life and is now permanently disabled. If this woman was somehow able to made whole, I could understand Walmart going after a portion of the settlement, but this is not the case.

    If anything Walmart shouldn’t be allowed to recover 100% of their expenses. The Shanks certainly did not recover a 100% of their losses.

  28. DrGirlfriend says:

    Disability insurance doesn’t last the rest of your life. Especially if you can’t pay the premiums out of pocket.

    One thing I’m not clear on: if she sues the truck company, does that mean she cannot file a claim with the truck company’s insurance? Because here’s the way I see it: you are supposed to bill the truck’s insurance for medical costs. If that coverage has a cap on it of how much it will pay, the balance goes to your health insurance. So, if she sues for damages, is that above the claim that was placed with the truck’s insurance carrier? Or if you decide to sue are you agreeing to not file a claim?

    If she did file a claim *and* sued, then the responsible party was, in fact, billed, and her health insurance through WalMart is, in fact, the right company to bill for the balance. If this is the case, then her WalMart insurance is, in essence, not covering her for her medical costs because they are making her pay them back from the settlement.

  29. SOhp101 says:

    @boandmichele: I’m sorry you’re so adverse to the idea of purchasing insurance, but companies don’t offer disability insurance just for fun.

    Insurance (in most cases) is optional, but she really could have used it. You don’t need insurance for most things (like electronics), but when it comes to situations that can financially ruin your life, then it just might be a good idea.

  30. dmnrk says:

    Why do you people just look for a reason to pick on Wal-Mart? This is well settled tort law in this country and it is how our society works. Guess what? I’m not shopping at Wal-Mart this Friday because their deals aren’t that good. I’m shopping at places that offer lower prices for what I want and all those holiday workers won’t have insurance either. Whaa.

  31. littlejohnny says:

    @murph1908: You have STD insurance??? I didn’t even know that existed. I’ll have to look into this because I absolutely HATE condoms as well.

  32. cnc1019 says:

    If we have to pay back the insurance company for doing their jobs, then why the hell are we paying premiums to begin with? I read this story off of fark originally and one commenter made the point that the insured has the duty to sue and pay all court costs. If the insurance company wants to be reimbursed, they should be the ones bringing legal action as they are the ones with the motivation. Then if the people injured wish to sue for damages, then there isn’t any of this bs going on.

  33. warf0x0r says:

    Here is my favorite quote from the article

    “In August last year, U.S. district judge Lewis Blanton sided with Wal-Mart, ruling that when Mrs. Shank signed on to Wal-Mart’s health plan she was obligated to abide by its terms.

    The ruling came six days before the Shanks’ 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in September last year in Iraq shortly after he arrived in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division.”

    F’ing wow, just wow. You know I’ll pay an extra 2.64 a trip to Target if it means that Wal*Mart’s founders go straight to hell.

  34. SOhp101 says:

    @DrGirlfriend: It doesn’t last for the rest of your life but in most cases it does last until you’re 65, and then you can go on Medicare. Many disability plans also give you a stipend, so you’ll just set aside x amount of dollars per month to pay for the premium.

    Honestly though I do agree with you… I think she could probably be free from being forced to pay Wal-Mart back if she sued for the right reasons. I guess this is all the more reason to read all contracts carefully before signing and agreeing to them.

  35. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @littlejohnny: You win the thread.

  36. SOhp101 says:

    @SOhp101: I should add that the life of your disability plan would depend on whether you got short term or long term disability.

  37. isadora says:

    Legal does not always equal moral. I am FLOORED by people who think this woman should have been spending a higher proportion of her income on insurance.

    First of all, Wal-Mart is notorious for having crappy insurance and pushing their employees to take state aid!–it’s amazing this woman had insurance through Wal-Mart to begin with.

    Secondly, what sort of phat cash do you fantasize this woman was making while in the parking lot at the ‘Mart?

    I will never understand those eager to protect their own (false) sense of security at the expense of others. You can not trust insurance companies. They exist to make profits and have plenty of incentives to get their employees to shortchange–not help–their clients.

    If you haven’t had a stressful run-in with your insurer, you’re luckier than this woman, not smarter or better at life.

  38. mrbill says:

    This needs to be clarified – it’s Wal-Mart’s HEALTH PLAN / INSURANCE COMPANY, not Wal-Mart itself, that wants the money she got from the settlement.

    As sad (and despicable) as this situation is, being ignorant about the terms of your health care policy isn’t an excuse – and while it’s also sad that her son died in Iraq, that has no bearing on whether she or her family owe money to her insurance company.

    If this family got special treatment for their situation, hundreds or thousands of others who had to reimburse their healthcare costs out of a settlement would cry foul.

  39. joebloe says:

    Walmart paid-out-of-pocket to for her so they deserve the money back afterward Why is she deserving of the money if Walmart paid for her? Sound like Walmart did the right thing.

  40. LadyNo says:

    This is pretty common. A friend of mine was injured while on duty as a police officer, and his medical coverage was great. He was actually hit by a drunk driver, so lots of people tried to get him and his wife to sue the crap out of the drunk driver. But they would have gone through all that hassle and difficulty, but it all would have gone back to the medical bills first, then his disability leave, and then finally him. He never would have seen a penny, so why bother continuing to deal with the scum bag?

  41. vaxman says:

    Eeveryone at Walmart setting their policies are sick twisted individuals whom deserve to go through their own system and suffer. I hope it’s painful.

  42. liquisoft says:

    Not a nice thing to do, but legal.

    Had the victim broken her legs rather than become brain damaged, I think the situation might’ve been quite different. But that’s not what happened. She’s brain damaged and they need money to keep her well. Medical expenses are always quite large, even for minor things. I can’t imagine the bills that come in for this woman.

  43. ManiacDan says:

    Imagine a role reversal if you will:

    Jim Bob starts an insurance company with his grandmother’s inheritance money. A local store, Wally-Market, takes out an insurance policy with Jim Bob.

    Some drunk doctor crashes through the front door of Wally-Market, causing exactly $100,000 worth of damage.

    Wally-Market files a claim with Jim Bob for the repairs and sues the doctor.

    The doctor pays out $200,000 in the lawsuit, covering damages and lost profits. Since subrogation was outlawed after today, Jim Bob is out $100,000 which someone else HAS ALREADY PAID. Think about it that way. The doctor in this scenario paid money explicitly for the repair of the store. Since the store has already been repaired, the money should go to refunding whoever originally paid it.

    Remember that the purpose of society is to be fair to all entities, not just people with low incomes. It sucks that this lady had to survive on a wal-mart income, and it sucks that she got hit by a truck, but it would also suck if your company lost out on half a million dollars.

  44. rachaeljean says:

    I’m the one who sent this one it, yaaay! :p

    Anyway, I think that the money is for her maintence and future care. She obviously can’t work anymore, and her family doesn’t seem like they can take care of her on their own (they are getting social security & medicaide and are trying to get more aid as well!). Her settlemetn should go to take care of her.

    As for saying she should’ve had more insurance, sure maybe she should have. But, after all, she worked at WAL-MART. With 3 kids. Not only was she likely not making enough to afford the insurance, but I’m betting she didn’t have a law degree either. She probably didn’t expect that if, God forbid, something like this were to happen that her employer would “recoup” her settlement. At least they sued successfully.. as I said this woman was likely not highly educated, and her family probably didn’t know how to ask that the suit be filed under certain terminology to enable her to keep the money. It looks as though the lawyer they found was at least a little competent. I hope that the fact that they put it in a trust for her benefit will be enough legal foothold to win an appeal.

    For those who say that they insurance company needs to recoup their expenses… that’s what our premiums are for!! These companies make PLENTY of money and I don’t think any of us really need to worry after their pocketbooks!

    And to the person who wondered why this is on Consumerist, I sent it in because I know that *I* am a consumer of health & other insurances, and it’s re-enrollment time… this is a story to keep in mind!

  45. bravo369 says:

    i guess the only remedy to this is to make sure you bleed the person you are suing dry. Get enough money to cover payment to the insurance and then a hefty sum for yourself. Also, wouldn’t payment depend on what you seek in the lawsuit? I agree with others in saying she shouldn’t have medical bills paid for twice however what if you sue for $500000 for future medical bills not covered by insurance and for emotional distress etc. When you win, you can turn back to the insurance company and say you didn’t sue to recoup medical costs since it was already taken care of. I’m no lawyer so I assume it’s written into the trial filing what and why you are suing for.

  46. impudence says:

    NO NO NO NO! Most of the commenters seem to not be seeing Walmarts slight of hand.

    If the woman had no insurance at all she would have ended up in the exact same position she is in now. Walmart and or its insurer received premiums so that they could pay her medical bills. Ultimately she would have been better off not having insurance at all and saving the premiums. Why have insurance at all if they will only turn around and make you pay for the medical bills in the long run.

  47. realjen01 says:

    omg….i just read the entire story. heart-wrenching….i understand wal-mart’s right to get their money back, but jeez, show some compassion…

  48. britne says:

    @joebloe: wal-mart (really, the insurance company) didn’t pay anything “out of pocket” – the employee had been paying her copays/deductibles/premiums/etc. that’s how insurance works.

  49. MUokayplayer says:

    Boy those insurance companies are slick…move for tort reform, cap judgments and then take it back. Congratulations on going to hell.

  50. bohemian says:

    Usually subrogation will go after the other coverage directly and not the insured even if the insured was compensated. This seems like an unusual slight of hand in how Walmart wrote their policy. Our health coverage as subrogation and they call us trying to find out if they can go after someone else any time you stub your toe.

  51. bravo369 says:

    Just a thought too. Wouldn’t the other guy’s insurance cover part or all of a settlement? If i’m correct, you basically have insurance companies paying each other, along with the individual paying the insurance company for the priveledge of paying them back in case an accident happens. Wow.

  52. PaulMorel says:

    Well, I hope she sues WalMart for all of the money she put into their health plan. After all, if walmart gets their way, then their health care provider has paid for $0 of her healthcare. So that basically makes their healthcare a scam.

    She put thousands of dollars into that health coverage, and now the health care company says that they won’t cover her health care.

    How is that not a scam?

    I guess I can see that the trucking company should be paying her medical expenses, but then WalMart should have sued the trucking company to recoup those expenses.

  53. realjen01 says:

    @bravo369: the trucking company only had $1 million in liability coverage.

  54. SadSam says:

    Not that doesn’t suck for this family, but its almost a universal provision in all insurance policies and its there to keep all of our costs down. If you collect litigation proceeds you have to pay back your insurance company for what they paid out, this is not Wal-Mart specific it happens every day. Same thing happened to me, when I settled a claim for an auto accident my attorney explained where all the money went, what chunk went to her, what chunk would go to the insurance company and what chunk would go to health care providers thaqt were paid by my insurance company but were legally allowed to ask for more money (there normal rate vs. insurance reimbursement rate) and what chunk would go to me. My attorney lowered her fee so that I would obtain a higher settlement, bless her heart.

  55. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @bohemian: Thats the way it is supposed to work. She got a settlement to help support her life. She paid her premiums and upheld her side of the agreement. The ins. company should not go after her.

    If she had been in an accident by herself where there was no one else to sue they would have had to write it off. So they obviously can acept the loss. But is it really a loss? She paid her premiums along with thousands of others for coverage. Thats what they provided..end of story as far as she is concerned. If they want to recoup thier losses they need to sue the trucking company and thier insurance, leave the poor woman alone.

  56. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @realjen01: A million bucks is chump change hell I have 500k liability for my passenger car! They need to liquidate some assets and pay up.

  57. realjen01 says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: i agree…but you know as well as i do that it’s not going to happen…

  58. Vanvi says:

    @ManiacDan: This is not the same situation at all. Mrs. Shank did not need one well-defined payment which would then “fix” her. It sounds like she will be requiring lifelong care. I agree with whoever posted that it’s a shame that this might come down to the terminology they used when they sued.

  59. guroth says:

    I’m using fake numbers here but you’ll get the point.

    1) Lady gets hit by truck
    2) Walmart spends $200,000 to patch her back up
    3) Lady wins $500,000 from Truck company for medical + damages etc
    4) Walmart says “hey the truck company gave you money to pay for your medical bills, but we paid for your medical bills, so give us our $200,000”

    Other than people hating Walmart, is there anything else WRONG with this?

    The short and long answer is NO.

    The only way this would be wrong is if
    a) The lady was awarded money for damages, and not medical expenses (which is not the case)
    b) Walmart was suing her for everything she won, not just the medical portion

  60. Elviswasntmyhero says:

    What’s interesting about this case is how it highlights the plight of those who supposedly have health insurance. Most folks take sides in the debate to reform this country’s dysfunctional health care system when they hear politicians toss around the phrase “47 million uninsured.”

    What tends to get lost in the banter surrounding that political talking point is the plight of the millions more who are underinsured and just a accident or cancer/devastating illness diagnosis away from emotional and financial ruin.

    But hey! I don’t want to be a total downer. I mean, Black Friday’s almost here. So try not to dwell on the “complicated” issues that involve our day to day lives and focus instead on maxing out your credit cards buying the latest pacifier, er, plasma TV.

  61. Vanvi says:

    @guroth: You forgot

    0) Lady (and others) pays thousands of dollars to Walmart for years so that she can get $200k if she ever gets hit by a truck.
    1) Lady gets hit by a truck.
    And so on . . .

  62. ironchef says:

    Walmart….ALWAYS low ethics, errrr I mean prices.

  63. MsClear says:

    As for the idea that this is helping to keep insurance costs down, how is that going? They go up what? 10% per year? Have you even LOOKED at the stats on skyrocketing insurance premiums?

  64. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Sounds to me like she had a crummy lawyer. She should have got more than just medical expenses but also enough to pay disability and ongoing expenses related to the accident.

  65. EtherealStrife says:

    The woman double dipped and got caught.

    How is Walmart in the wrong?

  66. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I really don’t like to side with the company, but it looks like the family didn’t settle for enough to take into account the subrogation.
    700,000 isn’t a whole lot to begin with when you are looking at caring for a loved one for the rest of their life, and since this subrogation is a standard part of insurance policies, they should have considered it. Or their lawyer should have.
    I also seriously dislike the way the article was written. I am so sorry that the couple’s son was killed in Iraq. But it has nothing to do with how business is or should be conducted and should not have been in the article – it has nothing to do with the case and just serves to twist the reader’s emotions.

  67. rdm says:

    The summary here is misleading. Walmart isn’t (from what I gather from the article) going after ALL her money from the trucking company but rather what they paid out.

    (Not much better but a small difference I guess)

  68. LucyInTheSky says:

    ummm… i know this is legal and a standard clause and stuff, but… that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. doesn’t walmart already have enough money??? this is stupid. they can’t just be nice for once. no, they have to squeeze every cent from every source they can get. jerks.

  69. XTC46 says:

    for anyone saying she is now disabled and get no income… Im pretty sure i have a nice portion of my paycheck that gets taken out for social security/disability.

  70. marsneedsrabbits says:

    It isn’t just an issue of if Wal*Mart has “enough money”… it is an issue of whether their insurance can be offered to their employees at an affordable rate or not. There are workers at Wal*Mart that need their own health care and they may not be able to afford the premiums if the company doesn’t do this.
    Wal*Mart’s money isn’t in a great big bag somewhere, all mixed together. Their insurance is funded separate from their stores – it has to be, so they can protect the store profits from insurance increases & protect the stock price.
    Ask yourself this: If the company had paid out say 50,000 to a family and the family got back 10,000,000 (10 million) as a settlement, would you be okay with the company getting their 50,000?
    It seems a bit more fair when the family isn’t paying back a huge portion of the settlement, doesn’t it?
    It really isn’t any less fair when they take a larger amount – the family could have sued the trucking company and won a lot more, legitimately. The trucking company didn’t have more than a million dollars in insurance, so the lawsuit could have bankrupted the trucking company. That would have been okay with me if it were my loved one who was harmed – honestly, if they got advice to settle for such a small amount, it was bad advice.
    Nevertheless, the family made a business decision to settle for less than they could have. Wal*Mart is making a business decision that allows other employees to continue to have affordable health insurance.
    How much more would you think was fair for other employees to pay in insurance so that these people can be cushioned from their bad decision? SInce this certainly isn’t the only case of subrogation they have to enforce, you are potentially talking about a massive amount of money – which people will you deny insurance to because they can’t afford to fund other people’s bad decisions?
    And no, I don’t work for Wal*mart, but I understand how insurance is funded.

  71. LawyerontheDL says:

    This story is horrible and is yet another reason to avoid Walmart whenever possible, but, as many other commenters have observed, Walmart’s actions are legally correct. If the bills had been $10,000, no one would have complained. It makes perfect sense that people shouldn’t recover for their medical bills twice. My question is, did these people have an attorney? Any attorney dealing with this type of settlement knows to get the insurer’s lien released as a part of any settlement. Chances are, if Walmart had been approached before the settlement was signed, the amount of the lien could be reduced and the Shanks could have held out for a settlement amount that would have covered the past medical expenses and provided for the future. I say they should go after the attorney’s malpractice insurance. This is such a shame.

  72. MommaJ says:

    My head is spinning. Why are so many posters insistent that this woman should collect double her health care costs? If it were Aunt Minnie’s Pie Shoppe that she worked for, instead of Walmart, would you still think she should hit up two insurance companies for the same expenses? Are your own insurance premiums so low that you’d like to see insurers pay money for no reason so your premiums can be higher? Or perhaps the sophisticated concept we’re seeing articulated here is that Walmart and any company associated with Walmart should always pay money to everyone, for anything. This family’s story is very tragic. But there’s not a single consumer issue involved. Why is this story even in Consumerist?

  73. Matt says:

    I think the story here is not big bad WalMart. It is insurance.

    Whatever, I don’t know the exact details of her plan or the settlement, but legal or not, this is not right. My thinking is that if you’re an insurance company and you A.) Can’t pay damages or B.) Have to sue a cripple to recover your money, you should NOT BE in the insurance business.

    The most ridiculous thing may be that the company who paid out the settlement and the company suing are the same company, or subsidiaries of the same company!

    To all of you that think this is perfectly OK, I think you’ve become used to corporate control a bit too fast. To me, this story is apalling. This lady just got royally screwed by a couple of corporations, and you’re all like ” well, it’s legal.” Well guess who wrote the laws?

  74. Bobg says:

    As my previous comments will show, I am not a big fan of some of the shady business practices being used by some companies out there. I this case I think that WalMart might be right to recoup their payments. I’m not sure about this as I am not a lawyer; they might be legally bound to recoup the payments.

  75. sibertater says:

    @SOhp101: P.S. disability insurance pays 66% of your income. If you make $8 an hour, 66% of that is $5.28/hr. So $8 an hour is not enough to survive on then the $5.28/hr isn’t either.

  76. sibertater says:

    I hate Wal-Mart but they are in the right here. No one has said anything about them stepping up to the plate and paying the costs initially so the poor woman could get the care she needed. It’s sorta like a loan…and it keeps her from getting the worst care possible. Or at least in theory it does. I don’t really know, I guess she could have bed sores and mange.

  77. witeowl says:

    Wow, I’m really impressed by most of the commenters here in realizing that the typically evil Wal-mart is actually in the right here. For those still not understanding, let’s take a different tack:

    My car is mysteriously wrecked. My insurance company pays for the $3,000 in repairs. A few weeks later, someone steps forward and takes responsibility for the accident. The guilty party cuts me a check for the $3,000 repair bill.

    Great, I’ve got $3,000 towards my next car, right? No, of course not. That money goes back to my insurance company.

    The problem here is that the family settled for too little from the trucking company. Sad as it is, that’s not Wal-mart’s fault.

  78. Woofer00 says:

    It’s amazing that so few people understand why Walmart is trying to get its money back. Walmart stepped in and tried to help the family in time of need. The company should be thanked for that, not heckled – note that the injury occurred on the employee’s personal time! The fact that the family ended up getting a settlement entirely justifies Walmart’s position.

    Imagine, instead of Walmart, it’s your close cousin who steps in and pays your bill. Then, WHAMMO! You get a settlement! Don’t you think your cousin would want at least part of their money back? Wouldn’t you in the same position?

    THere’s a strong position in the US against double-dipping, and if the family refused to pay back money that they received from two sources, they’re doing just that. If the family hadn’t been able to obtain damages, they could have kept it free and clear, but they chose to settle for an extremely low amount by their own fault.

    The article notes that at least one doctor didn’t think she would survive. A better question might be whether hospitals should force care onto the public without consideration of future costs.

  79. girly says:

    Creepily, it sounds as if you are saying that saving her life doesn’t make sense financially.

  80. Matt says:


    Yea, but you weren’t paying your cousin money out of your weekly paycheck for years before the accident.

  81. Walmart stepped in and tried to help the family in time of need. The company should be thanked for that, not heckled…

    @Woofer00: No, the insurance company did what they were being paid to do. You make it sound like Wal-mart was offering some kind of charity. I’ve never been arressted but I don’t expect to get a cash prize for doing something I’m supposed to do.

    Imagine, instead of Walmart, it’s your close cousin who steps in and pays your bill. Then, WHAMMO! You get a settlement! Don’t you think your cousin would want at least part of their money back?

    Not if I need the settlement money to pay continuing medical bills from the accident.

  82. grglarson says:

    @Starfury: I do not agree with all things wal-mart does but deciding to pay a higher price elsewhere just on principle is crazy, we will see you at wal-mart I am sure.

  83. grglarson says:

    @boandmichele: why do we have health care insurance the money we pay is for what? the assurance that we will have the best care possible in case somrthing happens, well, we should all just pay for a backstreet doctor take care of us in case something like this happens.

  84. warf0x0r says:

    You know if I was the health insurance company that just shelled out 500k to help a lady get her life together. I would pay a for an agent to go out to see her family and attorney to verbally state that by the way if you sue whoever was responsible we’re entitled to the proceeds, up to what we paid, as a stipulation of your health insurance so add that onto your settlement.

    It would probably cost me a bit, with airfare, but it would be cheaper than trying to litigate a suite against my customers and would certainly be better than relying on them to remember a finely printed line on a form where someone made a bunch of X’s and told them to sign by them and then hand it in before you leave the room. But that is just me.

  85. ogman says:

    Scumbags. No excuses, no BS, they’re just scumbags. There’s nothing right about this, just another company full of a-holes who wouldn’t know a human if they walked through the door.

  86. chippewa says:

    This is very sad. It seems that several facts are not known . How much was initial settlement for? How much were the expenses? and how much did the the lawyer fees amount to? Why didn’t the lawyer ask for enought money to cover present and future expenses in this unfortunate lady. I have seen this happen a lot where the victim gets nothing, but the lawyer who collects as much as 50% of the suit gets rich. The lawyer seems more intent on helping himself than helping the victim.

  87. mukazzi says:

    Please look at this story, as it gives more details than what we see here: []

  88. aldridgetspa says:

    as a former caregiver in a rehab facility to Debra Shank and as a former employee of Wal-Mart, I was truly appalled to read this story this is so discouraging to see a devoted spouse such as Jim to suffer more due to this clause we see many married spouses divorce more and more to not lose what they have worked so hard to keep it and get aid for their loved ones to have some semblence of care. Also Wal-mart is probably spending as much to get this settlement so why not let these people who need it keep it.

  89. JustBeHappy says:

    For one thing, Wal-Mart is NOT a philanthropic organization. It is a BUSINESS! This is NOT PERSONAL, it is BUSINESS! The insurance paid out the $470,000 for the family’s bills, yet if there were no settlement, would everyone be cheering for Wal-Mart for taking care of those bills??!! NO… why? Because it is part of the AGREEMENT (the insurance policy) that they will do that. Well, guess what?! It just so happens to also be part of that agreement that they get to recoup any money that is awarded in a settlement.

    AND since we’re into pointing fingers… about the fact that she was awarded $1,000,000.00 yet only had $417,000.00 left after law fees.

    WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE towards the lawyers who raped them?

    There isn’t any. Why? Because that is their fee. It’s just “BUSINESS”. (Kind of hypocritical, no?!)

    Since when did this country become so pathetic? Sue-happy-lazy people with their hands out expecting “someone” (the government, rich companies, etc.) to take care of them. Cry-babies who sit on the internet and make videos and write emails about the injustices of the world…yet doing nothing about it.

    What happened to being proud, earning a decent living and SAVING MONEY for a rainy day? What happened to taking care of your own?

    Since when did CORPORATE AMERICA become responsible for people’s medical issues and/or hardships?

    While on a personal level, I do agree this was a shitty move on Wal-Mart’s INSURANCE’s part, I am also intelligent and rational enough to understand that it was NOT personal and just business.