by architek, Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 07:18:33 PM EDT
The New York Times today has an article "
Injured Woman Wins Wal-Mart Saga"
about the positive effect extensive blogosphere publicity has had in embarassing WalMart out of taking the money that a brain injured woman had won in court after she had been hit by an inadequately insured truck..
As most of us probably already know, WalMart had a clause in its insurance policy that is incresingly common in corporate healthcare policies, that gave them as the right to "subrogation". This means to sue to seize any lawsuit awards won by insurees to reimburse the corporation for money they had spent for her medical care.
This second award was larger than what she had actually ended up with, leaving her both brain damaged, seriously injured and in need of extremely expensive care, and in debt.
A week after she lost her second court case - the lawsuit with WalMart, her son was killed in Iraq.
This evidently made her case unique, and news worthy.
MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann, outraged at WalMart - took on her case as an example of Walmart's infamous greed. Over the weeks, Olberman repeatedly brought the story up. Finally in April, there was an announcement from WalMart. Olbermann had apparently succeeded in embarassing WalMart into making an exception to their policy in Shank's case.
Deborah Shank, who was a shelf stocker at WalMart who had purchased company insurance - and later was hit by a truck while she was an employee, but was 'insured'. Her coverage included the now infamous clause, which WalMart claims is to protect their assets so that they can be used to help 'current employees'. Obviously, after she suffered severe brain damage when her car was hit by a truck, she could no longer work at WalMart. After fighting a long fight to get the money from the trucking company, winning a fraction of what she needed, and then being sued, by WalMart, fighting WalMart for it and losing, will get to keep the money to pay for at least some of her medical care.
(She still requires 24 hour medical care and will for the rest of her life.)
"The tactic, apparently, is not unusual. Many health plans include a "subrogation" policy that allows the plan to recover costs if a covered worker ever receives damages in a settlement related to the injury."
After they won the case, WalMart issued this statement:
"This is a very sad case and we understand that people will naturally have an emotional and sympathetic reaction. 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 recently declined to hear an appeal of the case, which concludes all litigation. While Wal-Mart's benefit plan was entitled to more than the amount that remained in the Shank trust, the plan only recovered the funds remaining in that trust."
Evidently, now, after Mr. Olbermann's repeatedly holding them up publicly as morally wrong in this situation, and after fighting her family for the money in court for several years, and now winning, WalMart has now decided, that even if they are legally 'within their rights' to recover what is left of her money, since they won the judgement, that the bad publicity in this case is bad for business. They will let Deborah Shank keep the $216,000 that remains to apply towards her future medical expenses and will not seek restitution of the over $250,000 she has already spent.