And, as you've probably already heard, Wal-Mart is seeking reimbursement for medical expenses incurred on the employee health plan.
Okay, here's the thing. As awful as this story is, and as heartless as Wal-Mart is coming off (and believe me, we'll get to that), this is simply a case of a trusting family being taken to the cleaners by an incompetent -- if not outright unscrupulous -- lawyer.
Let's see if we have this straight: this assclown took 58.3% of the settlement, and for his services, he assumed that Wal-Mart was just going to good-faith their recoupment of this health-plan clause? And this clause, which is pretty standard stuff, went completely unnoticed? What exactly does it take to get a license to practice law in Mizurrah, a pulse and a stack of self-printed cards?
Seriously, what exactly did this guy do for these people for a 58.3% cut? It looks like he failed to read her health plan clauses and assumed that Wal-Mart was some sort of benevolent creature. A third-grader could have done that for free.
And all he could get for all that was a million, more than half of which went in his pocket? Again, what is up with this Lionel Hutz crap, and why hasn't Jim Shank gone out and found another attorney to grind it out of his ass? I honestly can't see what this guy did to earn his keep. And I've never heard of a contingency lawyer taking over 40%, and even then only in lawsuits with higher payoffs.
Anyway, it seems pretty clear that Wal-Mart is well within their legal rights, and their duties to their stockholders. But come on, people, what's legal is not always what's ethical:
That's a crock of shit. Plans can be and are contingent upon external factors at times. Simley is really just saying that if they do a favor for the Shanks, they'll have to throw everyone a bone. I don't think that's true; these are obviously extraordinary circumstances, and considering that CEO Lee Scott makes enough to recoup that $470K in a very short week, perhaps Wal-Mart might reconsider its intractable stance.
Or not. I've never gotten the impression that the throngs of Martards have it in them to put their principles where their mouths are, and shop elsewhere. Something shiny will come along within the week, by which time Debbie Shank will have been reminded of her situation another half-dozen times, but be forgotten herself in the shuffle.
[Update: If you want to donate a few bucks to the Shanks, Wal-Mart Watch has set up a fund here. And again, while a write-in campaign might make people feel a bit better temporarily, and might even get Wal-Mart to give the Shanks a much-needed break, if people are truly morally disgusted, stop shopping there. It's better for you anyway; as the Rude Pundit points out, they are fundamentally unpleasant and oppressive in a lot of ways.
The only times I've ever been there is when we had a cat with a propensity for urinary tract infections, and for the last couple years of the cat's life, Wal-Mart was literally the only place in northern CA to carry the Purina UTI food. Since the cat died in 2006, there's been no need, and frankly, trudging through narrow, over-stocked aisles with people who can't afford the cheap shit they're buying is not my idea of a good time. I'd rather pay a little more and buy less stuff locally. I have too much stuff anyway. I think most of us do.
Also, I have been picking on the Shanks' lawyer, Maurice Graham, and Rude Pundit links to an interesting interview with Graham, which fleshes out a great deal of the story. The trucker was probably driving too fast, and Debbie Shank pulled out in front of him (going to yard sales, I read elsewhere), thus the liability was shared, and the trucking company was some podunk outfit that had the bare minimum required insurance, thus the measly payout. Accident reconstruction experts were required to properly assign liability, and no doubt that is recouped in the lawyer's fees, part of that 58.3% cut.
I still question Graham's assumption that Wal-Mart would just let the case go, but he's right in that it's strange how they waited around three years to initiate action. So I'll retract my unkind assertions about Graham earning his keep. It looks like he did what he could with a pretty bad hand to begin with. And it sucks that at the end of a series of incredibly horrible occurrences, the Shanks are basically at the mercy of Wal-Mart deigning to lift their corporate thumb. It might be interesting to see how this sort of situation is dealt with in a universal health care system, and how the costs would be subsumed in such a system (for example, the Shanks had to buy a wheelchair-accessible house). Just a sad story all the way around.]