Seven years ago Deborah Shank was a working mother employed at Wal-Mart when an accident with a semi changed her entire life. The accident left her with permanent brain damage and confined to a wheelchair when trying to get around.
Shank (52), seen here with her family, was awarded an accident settlement of $700k but legal and other expenses left her with $417k. The money was placed into a trust to cover Shank's future medical expenses and nursing home care.
Wal-Mart's health plan covered the medical expenses incurred by Shank. The company also sued the trucking company who owned the semi.
But when Wal-Mart found out about the settlement awarded to Shank they sued her for $470K, the amount they spent on her medical expenses.
I would like to tell you that the court denied this cruel lawsuit by Wal-Mart but I can't. In August 2006 a federal court ruled in favour of the Wal-Mart suit.
The decision has left Shank in dire straights. She is now forced to depend on social security and Medicaid to survive. And if you think things could not get worse for Shank and her family, it does.
Six days after the court approved Wal-Mart's suit, Shank's 18 year old son was killed in Iraq. But even this tragedy did not sway Wal-Mart's decision to collect.
The insurance terms under which Wal-Mart sought to recoup its expenses is known as "subrogation" and it allows Wal-Mart, and most other company health plans, the right to collect its expenses where an injury settlement has been awarded.
Of course, insurance companies argue that subrogation is needed to keep costs down for its members.
And in the interests of keeping costs down for its employees, Wal-Mart has just spent Shank's life for the benefit of their employees.