Debbie Shank suffered severe brain damage after a traffic accident 8 years ago that robbed her of much of her memory. She cries every time she's told that her son was killed in Iraq, as if hearing the news for the first time.
After winning the lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the accident, her husband put the money in a trust to pay for Debbie's long-term care.
And now, retail giant Wal-Mart wants that money:
Eight years ago, Shank was stocking shelves for the retail giant and signed up for Wal-Mart's health and benefits plan. [...]
Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank's medical expenses, but in 2005, Wal-Mart's health plan sued the Shanks for the same amount.
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.
In fact, they want the money so badly that the sued the family (and won):
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.
Legally, Wal-Mart is in the right. But morally, I don't think so. There's a Wal-Mar near where I work, and I shop there quite often. But after reading this, perhaps it's time to go to Target, which is a just little farther away.