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Wal-Mart backs off the Shanks

April 1, 2008 Big Box, Suburban Sprawl 8 Comments

A few days ago I did a post about Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, suing a former employee to recoup medical expenses.  The woman was injured in 2000 and left brain damaged and living in a nursing home.  Wal-Mart sued three years after she received a settlement from the party at fault.  This story has been all over the news of late.  Today I received the following from WalMartWatch:

After years of hounding Debbie Shank and her family, Wal-Mart says it will finally do the right thing.

Today, Wal-Mart agreed to allow the Shank family to keep the money they won from the trucking company responsible for Debbie’s injuries.

Finally, the Shank family can put their fight with Wal-Mart behind them and focus on taking care of Debbie.

This was all possible thanks to the tremendous support from people like you.

Jim Shank released the following statement today thanking you and the rest of Debbie’s supporters:

“I am grateful that Wal-Mart has seen their error and decided to rectify it. I just wish it hadn’t taken them so long, this never should have happened. I sincerely hope no other family ever has to go through this.

“My thanks go first and foremost to my lord and savior Jesus Christ for the strength to bear up under all this. Thanks also to the citizens of the United States – it wasn’t me who made this happen, it was the outcry of the people, and if there’s a lesson in this story it’s that ‘we the people’ still means something.”

You showed Wal-Mart that we will not sit back while the retail giant takes advantage of a working family in need.

And Wal-Mart showed that it will never do the right thing unless we stand up, express our outrage, and force it to make the moral choice. That’s why we need to continue to pressure Wal-Mart to do right by its 1.3 million American employees on issues like health care, discrimination, and working conditions.

For the Shank family, this is a bittersweet victory. Debbie’s injuries will last a lifetime, and the emotional toll of this ordeal won’t go away easily. But now they have one less obstacle to overcome — and you helped make that happen.

On behalf of the Shank family and all of us at Wal-Mart Watch, thank you for your support.


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nick Kasoff says:

    Now, I’m waiting to hear from the trial lawyer that took over half of the settlement. Will he also be giving the money back? Will all the WalMart haters here now start attacking him the way they did WalMart?

    [slp – For all we know he has spent the last three years defending thrm against Wal-Mart’s suit without additional compensation.] 

  2. It’s a shame that this post is an April Fool’s prank. Normally I wouldn’t be so quick to point it out, but I can see people getting angry if they got fooled by this one.

    I am not one to defend Walmart, but the Shank’s lawyer is the real villain here. He knew or should have known about the subrogation clause in the health insurance contract. He tried some tricks to get around it, and failed. Of course he is not the one who has to pay the price for his incompetence.

  3. john w. says:

    Then the Shanks’ lawyer can join Wal-Mart down in the sewer where they lurk.

  4. Margie says:

    If this story is a hoax, then virtually the entire mainstream media AND the Shanks have fallen for it. I think we can rest assured that’s not the case.


  5. Jim Zavist says:

    Given that Wal·Mart tracks their sales daily, using real time information, combined with the massive publicity this case generated, I’m guessing this decision was a purely pragmatic one – sales have likely slipped in the past few days, so it’s cheaper to cave on this lawsuit than it is to lose any more sales.
    Unfortunately, our legal system is a lot like politics, it’s all about the art of the possible. Do you settle for $900,000+ or do you go to trial and risk getting a lot less or nothing? Sure more is always a possibility, but in the end, a trial is the ultimate crap shoot.
    The other unfortunate reality is that paying for lifetime care is going to be expensive. Since none of the parties involved, with the exception of Wal·Mart (an they were apparently not at fault), has the resources to fund lifetime care, the burden will now fall on us, the taxpayers . . .

  6. I stand corrected. This is not a hoax. When I first saw Steve’s post I thought that he had been taken in by an April Fool’s prank. I guess not believing a true story makes me just as much of a fool as the people who fall for the fake stories.

    The moral of the story: Never issue a press release on April 1st.

  7. Nick Kasoff says:

    Jim, neither of us know one way or another, but my guess is that this case had no impact on WalMart sales. Those who hate WalMart weren’t shopping there to being with, and those of us who do shop there don’t blame WalMart for this. The reality here is, WalMart just gave a gift of nearly half a million dollars to one of their employees. But the bellyachers at WalMart Watch will hate them just as much tomorrow as they did last week.

    [slp — the most Wal-Mart could collect was the amount left in the trust fund — $277K.]  

  8. DTG in STL says:

    Kind of surprised by the amount of seeming Wal-Mart defenders here.

    Did Wal-Mart have any sort of legal obligation to drop their collection attempts? No. Did they have an ethical one? Absolutely.

    I appreciate the fact that they did the right thing, but as someone with many acquaintances in the world of public relations – this was every bit a PR maneuver by Wal-Mart. Some bean counter figured out that a few hundred thousand dollars just wasn’t worth the amount of grief they were getting from people like Keith Olbermann – who indicated he wouldn’t back down until they “atoned” (his words) for this.

    Multi-billion companies don’t “do the right thing” because they actually care about behaving ethically… they do it because they care about their bottom line. This wasn’t going to knock them out of business by a longshot, but I think it’s fair to say that it could have cost them more than they stood to lose by giving in. It’s not something you can clearly quantify, but there’s a reason that these folks pay huge PR firms millions of dollars a year – because making good PR moves benefits them in the long run.


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